A position as a board member has plenty of benefits for those who serve, from the pure joy of giving, to the more practical résumé boost and network building the typical board member experiences almost instantly. There are some things to consider before you take the plunge, though. While serving on a board can be a very rewarding experience, it is important to understand why you are signing up and to choose the right organization to work with. You’ll be committing to at least a year of service, so making the right selection is critical for your success. Here’s what to consider before you sign up or agree to join a nonprofit board.
If you know you want to serve, then joining a board is a good idea – but you need to choose the right one. You should select an organization with a mission you truly support and believe in. This will ensure you get the most personal satisfaction from your time and that you are working towards a cause you truly want to serve.
Most nonprofit boards require attendance at regular meetings. You should know the commitment level needed before you sign on the dotted line. Many organizations also require a specific amount of service or will request your time for PR opportunities, committee service, and fundraising in addition to leadership meetings. Many boards also require an annual gift or monetary investment. You should be aware of what is expected and easily able to afford this added, tax-deductible expense. Understand the amount of time and money needed to serve and be ready to attend as agreed – not just now, but in the next two to three years of your term.
Most board service is for a term that spans 2-3 years. Have you established a firm home base in the city the organization you wish to serve is located in? If you see a potential long distance move in your future or are not sure what your ability to serve will be in the years to come, it might wise to wait to join a board. Serving on a board is a big commitment and you should be ready to dedicate not just your “now” but time in the foreseeable future as well.
You’ve found the right organization and mission, have the time to serve and are ready to go. At least, you felt that way until you met the current board members. Sloppy leadership, a few bombastic voices that dominate the group, and other personality or leadership issues can sour your experience fast. Make sure that you meet the team you are considering working with and that you know what you are getting into. Ideally, a board you serve will already be governed well and organized with a positive, easy to work with set of personalities. If it feels toxic at the beginning, things will only go downhill, no matter how much you love the cause.
Being asked to serve on a board is flattering and potentially a good boost to your career as well, but only if you truly believe in the mission, have the time and money needed to serve and the board in question is a positive, well coordinated entity. Taking the time to answer these questions before you agree to join a board ensures you do the most good and that you get the best possible experience from your service.
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