Why Join a Non Profit Board and What to Know Before You Apply

Joining a non profit board can be a great opportunity to both boost your personal development and give back to your community.

But wait, you have to be wealthy to be a board member don’t you? No. Although not all boards are the same, the most valuable thing that most non profits will demand of you is your time. The specific amount of time is dependent on the organization and its board. Different members take on different levels of leadership in the non profit’s activities. But, as a minimum, you should expect to meet in person at least once a quarter and participate in conversations in between.

It’s a big commitment. So why do it?

4 Reasons to Join a Non Profit Board

1. Improve Your Communication

The best boards are teams. They make sure everyone has a voice (even if they are repeating what you said) and is patient to understand the others point of view. In a small business, you have limited opportunity to manage large meetings with outspoken views. Being part of a board allows you to lead your peers with diplomacy and patience.

2. Grow Your Skills

You’ll oversee business strategies, marketing strategies, and fundraising strategies. You’ll review financial reports. You’ll speak at events, and represent the organization. And while you are doing this you will have your fellow board members mentorship and support.

3. Meet Interesting People

People that join boards have one thing in common: They have chosen to get off the bench and get into the field. They are not just a member of the community; they are trying to make it better. And you will feel enriched by their company and their friendship. You will attend events that you may not have had access to previously, and gain audiences with people who can help grow both you and your business.

4. A Chance to Make a Difference

For all the self-fulfilling reasons for serving on a board, the main reason for joining a non profit board should be to make a difference in your community. Whether it’s guiding best business practices, raising awareness of issues, fundraising or mentorship, if you’re looking for a way to give back, board service is a way to do that.

What You Need to Know Before You Apply

So, how do you know if a specific board position at a specific organization is right for you?

1. The Mission and Values

Familiarize yourself with the organization. Find out the mission statement, the values. Ask for the annual report and articles about the organization. Just because you’re in the same community, it doesn’t guarantee if your ideas align.

5. The Finances

Request a copy of the budget, recent balance sheet and financial statements. You don’t have to be a financial wizard to join a board, but you do have to understand the financial state of the organization.

3. Your Responsibilities

Find out how often the board meets. It can be anything from every month, to once a year. Remember the less often the board meet, the less engaged and productive the board will be.

Then find out what your responsibilities will be on the board. Are the roles of the board clearly defined? Are there standards of performance to which you will be held accountable?

4. The Liability

Volunteer boards are ultimately responsible for what happens in the organization. As a Director, you are liable for decisions made on behalf of the organization by the Board. You want to ensure that the organization has sufficient Director Liability insurance to protect its Directors.

5. The People

You are inevitably are going to have to make unpopular decisions and have challenging conversations with the board and organization, so find out who it is you’ll be working with. Find out their priorities. Their investment.

6. The Skills and Expertise They Are Missing

Find out what skills they are lacking with their current board members and if you can fulfil those needs. Do they need help with public relations, SEO, finance, event planning or connecting with specific groups of people? It will help your pitch and ensure that when you join you have a direction for your role.

It takes a lot of commitment and time to serve effectively as a board member. However, with these responsibilities come many benefits to the personal, professional and community aspects of your life that far outweigh the work required to be a great board member. If you’re considering board service, there are several online resources to help get you started including Hubcap, Imagine Canada and the Canada Business Network,