So You Want to Join a Board?

You love volunteering, but find yourself wanting to do more to help out. Maybe you want to apply whatever professional expertise and experience you possess to help further an organization’s mission. Maybe you want to hone your leadership skills in the process.

Maybe you should think about sitting on a board.

First of all, what is a board? The board of directors consists of a group of people who provide leadership and direction to an organization. Board members of nonprofit organizations are almost all volunteers.

Serving as a board member is perhaps one of the most challenging and rewarding of volunteer positions. Being appointed or elected to be part of a board requires a strong commitment of time, skills, and resources. What do board members do? Whether it is legal expertise, financial know-how, a communications background, a knack for IT, or simply a passion for a cause, board members bring a wide variety of skills to the table. The ED may call upon board members for strategic advice. For instance, an accountant may be asked to provide financial reports and a human resource professional might provide advice on an employee benefits plan. Before signing up to join a board, it is important to know what skills the board needs and whether you possess these skills or can acquire them at some point.

Duties of the board members:

  • Determine the organization’s mission and purpose
  • Hire, support and evaluate the Executive Director
  • Ensure effective organizational planning
  • Ensure adequate resources and monitor effective use of resources
  • Raise the organization’s profile
  • Ensure legal and ethical integrity and maintaining accountability
  • Recruit/orient new board members, and assess board performance

Joining a board requires commitment, so do your homework before embarking on your adventure as a brand new board member. Here are some basic questions a prospective board member must ask before joining an organization.

About an organization:

  • When was it founded?
  • What is its mission?
  • Who does it serve?
  • Does it have a strategic plan?
  • Does it have bylaws?

About the board structure:

  • Who are the current board members?
  • Are there job descriptions for all positions?
  • How much time is required for board meetings, committee meetings, and special events?
  • What committees exist?
  • Does the organization have liability coverage for directors and officers?

About the financial status:

  • Is the financial condition of the organization sound?
  • Does the board discuss and approve the annual budget?
  • What is the board’s role in fundraising?

Check out our Governance 101 workshop! It is an innovative & interactive guide to boards. Understand the basic functions and responsibilities of non-profit boards. Check out our workshops for more information.

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