Being a non-profit board member requires a significant commitment of time and effort. I’ve heard plenty of board members refer to board service as their second job – except one where instead of making money they give it away. Yet, when done right, board service is tremendously fulfilling and enjoyable.
Serving as a non-profit board member should be a personally rewarding experience.
You should get just as much value from your involvement as a board member as you provide to the organization. You should enjoy your work on the board, learn from the people around you, and feel like your contributions make a difference. While the board leadership holds some responsibility for creating an environment where these things naturally happen, you are ultimately responsible for your own experience.
Here are three things you must do to have a good experience as a non-profit board member:
- Support a cause you are truly passionate about. In order to be effective as a board member, you must truly believe in the organization’s vision and be able to inspire others to get involved. These things won’t happen if you aren’t passionate about the cause. Never agree to serve on a board just because a friend asked you for a favor or because you felt bad turning down the opportunity. If it isn’t the right fit, acknowledge this and move on to an organization you can support whole-heartedly.
- Know your responsibilities as a board member. As a board member, you should be doing a lot more than just showing up to meetings. In order to be successful you need to understand what your general responsibilities are as well as what you should be doing in your particular board position. If for some reason your board does not provide an orientation to new board members, make sure you read the organization’s bylaws and the job description for your position.
- Actively contribute and take initiative. Just as in life, if as a board member you wait for someone to tell you what you should be doing you aren’t going to get much done. Don’t be afraid to speak up and take action when needed. This is probably why you were asked to serve on the board in the first place! Ask yourself, how am I going to make a difference? Your active involvement will lead to greater fulfillment.
While I truly believe board service is a responsibility of citizenship, I also believe you should enjoy your involvement as a board member and find it a meaningful experience. If you are a current board member who is having a less-than-rewarding experience, use the list above to identify what is missing. And, if you are currently a board member who is having a positive experience – congratulations, you got it right!
Jene Kapela, Ed.D.
Do you agree? Share your thoughts in the comments. You can also contact Jene at firstname.lastname@example.org.