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Serving on a Nonprofit Board – Do You Have the Passion?

December 08, 2011

The ins and outs of what should you know before you join a board

I cannot tell you how many times I have been asked if I would like to serve on a nonprofit board, or whether I know someone who would like to serve on a board. I imagine that most people, when asked to serve on a board, do so because someone is asking them for a favor.

The question is –should you serve on a board when asked? My immediate answer is yes, with a big IF. You should serve IF you have an interest in the organization’s mission. Actually, your interest in the organization’s mission should be close to a passion for the mission.

However, there are pros and some cons of board service that you should go into this knowing about. From a recent Wall Street Journal article, “Before you join that Board, it may be an honor, and it may be a pain”; the author of the article explains that serving on a board can be a big commitment. Nonprofit Board members have certain responsibilities. Besides attending anywhere from 7–10 board meetings each year, serving on sub-committees, and attending events and galas, you may also be asked to assess programs, and possibly make a financial commitment. It is because of all this potential hard work that you must seriously evaluate your interest/passion for serving on a particular board.

Knowing your responsibilities as a nonprofit board member before joining a board will involve asking some or all of the following questions before deciding whether to accept the position. Questions about: the finances of the organization, the structure of the board, individual board member responsibilities, how long do board members serve, what committees does the board have, the programs of the organization, and questions about the organization’s management and staff .

As a board member, one needs to be committed to attending all board meetings, to be prepared for the meetings, be prepared to ask tough questions, and be willing to serve on one or two committees of the board. As a board member you have a fiduciary responsibility to the organization and to the general public.

When evaluating whether to serve on a board, you must decide:

  1. Whether you are so passionate about the mission of the organization that you are willing to work hard for no financial compensation,
  2. If you are willing and eager to use your network and professional skills to further the organization’s mission
  3. If you are so passionate about the mission that you are prepared to be an ambassador for the organization
  4. If you are so passionate about the mission that you will take on fundraising responsibilities

Visit our website for more information on nonprofit board member responsibilities. You can view our latest webinar and read more about this topic here.

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