Joining a Nonprofit Board of Directors: Everything You Need To Know

Joining a Nonprofit Board of Directors: Everything You Need To Know

Bethany Johnson headshotPosted by Bethany Johnson, guest blogger

Volunteering can elicit many feelings: pride, gratitude, compassion, enjoyment, and hope among others. Giving back is a great experience, but some volunteers have another emotion, and that is the feeling of wanting to do more.

Thankfully, you can do more. Leading by serving means getting creative, and if you’re ready to think outside the box, consider joining a nonprofit board of directors. Bear with me—joining the board of your local nonprofit can be more attainable than you think. Here are some things to keep in mind before you dive in:

Across the Board

The board of directors governs a nonprofit, representing the differing values and visions of multiple people so that no one person controls it all. Although employees and volunteers carry out the daily work of the organization, elected directors use their expertise to decide which direction the business should go.

The responsibility of being on the board is what gives it so much importance. It’s much easier to “clock out” after volunteering a few hours than it is when you’re on the board. Directors make tough decisions on where to focus while the rest of the workforce follows this trajectory. If you’ve ever managed an organization, even your own household, you know this kind of leadership is easier said than done.

nonprofit board of directors at work

Going Overboard

A board usually consists of a president, a secretary, and a treasurer. Subject-matter experts in departments like legal and accounting may also be appointed, but education and experience is often secondary to a candidate’s passion for the nonprofit’s mission. So although you may not hold a master’s degree in business administration, you may still be the perfect fit for a seat on the nonprofit board of directors.

The Job Description

What should you expect when you volunteer? In his book, “The Perfect Board,” author Cal Clemons explains much of the job entails simply making yourself aware of the nonprofit’s operations. “Directors have to read, review, and study materials pertaining to each issue,” he writes. “They must be prepared to speak or provide input as well as actively participate in discussions and deliberations.”

Then, directors vote on specific options available to the nonprofit. How should the organization spend their budget this year? How might resources like manpower be used? What marketing strategies should be employed (or ditched)? How should paid employees be organized and compensated?

A meeting of nonprofit board of directors with notetaker.

Before you consider joining a nonprofit board of directors, you’ll want to know what the job entails, what’s expected of board members, and whether you’re the best one for the job. Read on for everything you need to know.

Keep in mind you’re free to continue volunteering as “boots on the ground,” but you would need to remove your director hat to assist the day-to-day operations of the organization. That means no micro-managing. It means letting recruits perform their work, even if it’s not exactly how you would do it.

Me? A Director

If you are passionate about a nonprofit’s cause, devoid of any conflict of interest, you’re already a candidate for board service. To serve, all you need is your time and proficiency. The benefits to you are illimitable, but a few of the most common advantages to board service are:

  • A killer resume. The best leaders appreciate a job history of serving on the board of directors for a nonprofit.
  • A fantastic professional network. You won’t need an elevator speech if the community knows you from your public work. Instead, business-owners will automatically think of you when great opportunities arise.
  • Accolades. Because these members are rarely compensated for their presence on the board, nonprofits go above and beyond to thank their directors publicly. You’ll likely see your name on program brochures, plaques, and associated websites. Of course this sholudn’t be your reason to sign up, but it’s nice to be appreciated for your service.
  • A rounded skill set. Governing a nonprofit is an indispensable skill you’ll find yourself using in other areas of life.

To get started, check out the almost 3,000 board of director volunteer job openings on Volunteer Match, a website that pairs willing individuals with the needs of nonprofit organizations. Or, ask the owner of your local nonprofit organizations about when the terms for the current board of directors end. If the service term of an existing board is approaching, this is the perfect time to get involved.

Helping a nonprofit carry the weight of its overarching responsibility is a scary prospect, but the mutual benefits are well worth it. Have you served on the board of directors for a nonprofit before? What did you like about it? Comment with your advice and encouragement to other readers below or tweet @TomsofMaine to join the discussion.

Image source: Flickr | Flickr

This article was brought to you by Tom’s of Maine. The views and opinions expressed by the author do not reflect the position of Tom’s of Maine.