For some individuals, being a member of a board invokes pictures of rich movers and shakers, writing hefty checks and chairing lavish fundraisers. Surely, that kind of board participation is essential to soliciting money on behalf of a worthy organization. However, there are other functions of a board member that many people overlook.
My leadership team has proudly served on boards for numerous organizations, including Boys & Girls Club, Detour Company Theatre, and Valley Leadership. At Lincoln Strategy Group, we cherish these volunteer roles as an opportunity to help nonprofits enlarge the reach and scope of their work. Indeed, money is needed when it comes to supporting these organizations. But they also need the time, skills, and career experience of business executives.
Whether you’ve served on boards in the past—or if you’re considering joining one for the first time—it’s crucial to ask yourself and the organization several questions. Your ability to make a positive impact will depend on the organization’s expectations, not to mention your own expectations, resources, and availability.
What Do You Want To Gain From This Membership?
It’s perfectly fine to join a board whose mission you can bolster while making sure it’s a partnership that will benefit you as well. Idealistcareers.org attests that not only will a board membership raise your profile in a certain industry and profession, but it can also strengthen your project and team management skills.
What’s the Criteria?
How many meetings will you be required to attend? Is there a minimum fundraising amount that you’re required to hit? In some cases, a primary responsibility of board members is to provide strategic direction for the organization. While in other instances, some board members are background supporters who aren’t expected to do much more than lend their name to the organization’s promotional materials. Both levels of involvement have their perks and drawbacks but ask upfront about the expectations.
Why Does This Organization Want You?
How many board members does the organization currently have? And more importantly, why are they looking for new ones? Those are two pertinent questions to ask, according to nonprofit consultant Allison Fuller who recommends finding out as much as you can about the composition of an organization’s current board as well as the board’s turnover rate. “If you are radically out of step with the rest of the Board you need to know,” she says, “and ask why they are looking outside their ranks.”