Are You Ready To Join A Nonprofit Board? (part 1 of 2)
FULFILLMENT. That's a pretty powerful word these days. Not only are we supposed to be successful, responsible, stable and creative - we have to be fulfilled doing it as well. It's a tall order for anyone. But let's say that fulfillment isn't a destination, but a journey. This journey is a personal one. It's one that invites you to see what you are really passionate about and challenges you to commit to an idea full throttle.
So perhaps you've been considering how it is that you can start on that journey of personal fulfillment without, say, selling your belongings and moving to a third world country. In fact, maybe you've considered joining a Board of Directors. Great!!! That's why we're here. We want to see if you really are ready to commit to a Board of Directors, and once you are - help you to identify one with whom you can make a difference.
So let's get started on your journey of personal fulfillment, shall we?
The first thing to consider is this: What do you have to give? Being on a Board requires much more than monthly meetings and approving committee reports. Actually joining a Board requires a considerable amount of time, resources and dedication. While some Board members like to wade into minute operational details of the agency, as a Board member, you'd really be governing, steering and guiding the agency towards a long-term vision. So before you jump in with both feet, take a little time and consider the following checklist and examine which of these items you can contribute to the cause of your choice:
Board service expectations can vary widely depending on whether or not you hold an officer position, which committees you sit on, and how often the Board meets. But as a general rule, consider the minumum for a starting Board member is 5 hours a month for a commitment time of a 2-year term.
This is something that agencies sometimes struggle with: asking their Board Members for direct contributions. But, as a Board Member, it is expected that you give of yourself personally in order to satisfy most large foundations (after all, how can you fundraise for something which you are unwilling to give yourself?) The minimum gift requirements for most boards can vary widely, but expect an established board to run between $500-$2500 per year.
The ideal Board Member not only commits of themselves, but is willing to open their rolodex to the agency as well. This means that you are willing and able to recruit people that can be counted on to lend support to the agency in one way or another. Sometimes this contribution comes in the form of cash, but often this can be in expertise, trade services, guidance or other assistance.
Tight budgets mean that sometimes agencies don't have the luxuries of hiring staff with significant experience in certain fields (like legal or financial advisement). Board Members then have a unique opportunity to help the agency by providing a skill or expertise for which a nonprofit would otherwise have to pay for. Also, since Governance comprises a large part of the Board's responsibility, Boards need members that can help ensure the agency is following the IRS and HR guidelines in order to mitigate risk.
Aside from Governance, Fundraising is the second biggest duty of a Board Member. This means that it would be part of your responsibility to attend (and pay for tickets to) the agency-standard fundraising events and drives. There are fun events, but no freebies here. To get a better idea of expectations, check out our helpful Fundraising 101 for Board Members guide.
If you find yourself answering yes to a majority of these questions, you may be ready to join a nonprofit board as part of your personal journey towards fulfillment. If you already have a Board of Directors in mind, put in a call to the agency's Executive Director or Director of Development to ask for a meeting. If you don't have an agency in mind, stay tuned to Part II of this series.
WANT TO GET CONNECTED TO A NONPROFIT? We Help Build Boards
WANT TO FURTHER DEVELOP YOUR UNDERSTANDING OF THE ROLE OF A BOARD MEMBER? Sign Up For Our Upcoming Board Development Class