Thinking About Joining a Nonprofit Board? Ask Yourself These 5 Questions First
The board of directors plays an essential role in the success of any nonprofit organization. Nonprofit boards have many responsibilities, including setting strategic goals to meet the mission, being accountable for financial decisions made by executive leadership, and remaining informed about what's happening within the organization. The work of the nonprofit board of directors not only affects their own lives but also the lives of others in their community. For these reasons many professionals consider joining a nonprofit board when looking for ways to make a difference in their field while giving back to society at large. However, joining a board of directors requires a significant commitment – both in time and money. So, before you take this step, it’s critical to assess your own readiness for nonprofit board service.
Here are a few questions to get you started:
Are you passionate about the nonprofit’s mission? This is arguably the most important question to ask. If you don’t have a strong sense of what the nonprofit stands for and whether or not their mission aligns with your values, beliefs, and passions, you will be less likely to want to give your time in support of their cause.
Could you see yourself working well with the nonprofit’s CEO and other board members? This relationship between the nonprofit board and management is vital. Members of a nonprofit organization's board should be able to work well with the CEO as well as other board members to execute on the mission of the organization. There are many moving parts in a nonprofit, and if the board and CEO are not aligned, it can be difficult to make decisions and move the organization forward.
Will your experience, connections, and professional skills benefit this nonprofit? Do you have familiarity with their area of focus. Are there people you know through your personal or professional networks that can help this organization advance their cause? Perhaps you have unique skills that will help this specific organization solve near-term or long-term problems.
Can you make the time to be an effective board member? Board members should be able to commit to meeting regularly and spending time reviewing materials. They should also be able to attend events hosted by the nonprofit and meet with potential funders, as necessary. Be up front and ask what time commitment is expected of board members, as this can vary widely between nonprofit organizations.
Are you joining a nonprofit board more to help yourself or to help the nonprofit? This can be a difficult question to answer. Everyone has different reasons for volunteering in any capacity. But if your primary reason for joining a nonprofit board is to expand your own professional network, enhance your resume, build your own leadership skills, or “check a box” to earn your next promotion, then now may not be the right time for board service.
Serving on a nonprofit board is one of the most fulfilling professional endeavors. But there are many aspects of nonprofit board service that you can never fully grasp until you attend your first meeting. If you’re considering joining a nonprofit board of directors, take a minute to explore our Nonprofit Board Member Essentials program. It’s 100% free and will give you the real-world insight to decide if becoming a nonprofit board member is really for you.