Nonprofit organizations of all kinds (charities, chambers of commerce, membership organizations, etc.) need board members to help guide them. Board service can be a rewarding experience, offering an opportunity for giving back to your community, personal growth, and professional advancement. What should you consider before joining any board?
- Find an organization with a mission that is meaningful to you. Board service involves hard work. If you are not passionate about the organization, you are unlikely to be a good board member, and even less likely to find it to be a rewarding experience.
- Identify what you are looking to gain from your board service.
- Is your primary objective to give back to the community or support particular cause? You may be interested in volunteering for a charity board.
- Are you looking to network with other board members? You may want to get involved with a Chamber of Commerce.
- Do you want to advance your profession? Most professions have societies or associations dedicating to serving and advancing the profession of member.
Many boards look for board members who already have experience with the organization. Consider volunteering for an organization to learn more about it. Attend events, join a committee, or do fundraising. You will get to know others within the organization and understand its operations better.
Before you accept a board position, you need to do some due diligence. You need to understand:
- What is expected of board members?
- Time commitment (meetings, committee work, etc.).
- Is there a financial commitment? Many charities expect a level of contribution from board members, either direct monetary contributions, or fundraising efforts.
- How long is a board member term?
- What is the governance and financial strength of the organization?
- Review annual reports and Form 990 (available to the public).
- Search the internet for news (good and bad) about the organization.
- Ask for copies of bylaws and policies.
- Does the organization have Directors and Officers (D&O) insurance coverage?
- Is there orientation and training for new board members?
- Meet with current or former board members to discuss.
Not every board position will be the right fit for you. If you cannot commit to the expected time or financial commitment, or if the organization’s mission does not align with your interests, it is perfectly fine to decline. Keep looking for the right opportunity, where you can contribute, and gain from your experience.