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Just For Nonprofits: Getting Aboard A Board
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Just For Nonprofits: Getting Aboard A Board - Executive Leadership Articles

Just For Nonprofits: Getting Aboard A Board

Executive Leadership Articles

Just For Nonprofits: Getting Aboard A Board

There comes a time in your professional life when serving on the board of a nonprofit organization seems like a good idea, whether it’s because there’s a seat vacancy for a group that’s dear to your heart, or someone plants the idea in your brain, or you’re actively recruited. There are countless reasons for joining a board, some of them noble and some selfish, but judging your motivation it outside the reach of this article. What matters is that you know why you want to do it, and if you’re teetering on the brink of commitment, here are some reasons you might give it a shot.

Your skillset is varied and far-reaching, and sometimes years in the same positions in the same businesses make it easy to forget that your interests are also multi-faceted. Serving on a board lets you apply your skills in a different way, perhaps in a different field, sometimes in ways that have personal meaning. Perhaps a relative was helped in some way by a charitable organization, or maybe you’ve always admired the way some nonprofit firm has been run. Here’s a chance for you to stretch out a little, to be valued in a different way, kind of like Bo Jackson’s NFL hobby paired with his Major League Baseball career.

There’s a lot to be gained by serving on a board. In addition to the professional connections you can establish with prominent figures in business, media, education, and public service, you can earn a certain credibility afforded people who help steer the ship of visible nonprofit organizations. Sitting on a board can scratch that yearning itch for community service that signing a check doesn’t always satisfy, and it can give you insight into the way an organization is forever acting and reacting in the shifting currents of funding. Tony Kornheiser and Michael Wilbon, the hosts of ESPN’s Pardon the Interruption, serve on boards connected to their alma maters (SUNY Binghamton and Northwestern University), and the pride in their voices is obvious whenever they discuss their activity on these boards. These veteran journalists have interviewed some of the greatest athletes in history, but the joy they experience through the close ties to their colleges seems to rival their fondest memories on the fields of play.

Finding a board isn’t difficult. If organizations you already support don’t expect openings any time soon, get to know the executives who work with the boards, and let them know of your interest. There may be similar boards on which you might serve, or the executives might be aware of boards for other agencies in need of what you have to offer. Additionally, websites can help connect you to boards with vacancies. LinkedIn can be a good source of vacancy info, and BoardSource.org and BoardnetUSA.org provide matching services, which can be fun to browse if you’re still not sure you want to make the commitment. They give you a good sense of what’s out there and what kind of need exists, a kind of window-shopping before the serious searching.

While there are many talents and skills you have to offer a board, and keeping in mind that board service can be very rewarding for you personally, for nonprofit organizations your most important role, no matter how the seat you’re in is labeled, is to bring in the money. It may sound cynical or crass to put it this way, but board members who do not (or cannot) bring in the funds are doing little more than taking up space. There are many people who can offer your experience, wisdom, and skills, but what makes the real difference for these organizations is how reliably you can sell (or purchase) a table at the fundraising event, or what kinds of benefactors you can connect to the group. So before you take the plunge, spend some time evaluating your possible contribution where it matters most to the stakeholders.


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Just For Nonprofits: Getting Aboard A Board - Executive Leadership Articles

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