Is It Hard Being a Non-profit Board Member?

On Contract OnlyHow Hard is it to be a Non-Profit Board Member?

As in all activities in life, if you’re not suited for the job, it will be hard.

If you love it, then, being a board member in a non-profit will be an enjoyable and rewarding experience.

How will you know whether it suits you or not?

Try it . . . carefully . . . not all boards are built the same nor do they operate the same.  Don’t go onto a board with rose-colored glasses.

Groups of people organize themselves according to an “unwritten code of behavior”.  If you can recognize the code, then it’s a fit – maybe.   If you don’t understand what the secret code is, then whatever you say or do will have less than favorable responses not matter how passionate you are about what “should be done”.

How will you know which group will work for you?

Interview.  Set up a system similar to an interview and interview several organizations before you pick one.  Here are some tips:

a.  Pick something you would like to support – environment, animal rescue, pet adoption, rights of the elderly, street kids, etc.

b.  Research the non-profits which are involved in the topic you have chosen to help.

c.  Phone them up and ask if they are looking for board members.  If so, let them know that you are interested in possibly supporting the cause and would like to attend a board meeting.  Most organizations welcome people to their board meetings as a way to informally check each other out.  Do this for several organizations until you find just the right fit.

d.  Make sure you ask a lot of questions, review financial statements, attend an activity if you can, talk to past board members – whatever you can do to learn as much as possible before committing to anything.  Take your time. There’s no rush.

e.  Make sure that you know what you want to get out of the experience and the reward you expect.  There are tremendous benefits which can accrue for your personal and professional lives if you shine in your volunteer work – networking, getting raises or promotions at work, finding new friends or new work partners, landing new jobs, feeling the satisfaction of doing something great for your community, learning new skills, etc.

7.  Once you’ve decided which organization you want to devote your time, expertise and talents to, then go “all in”.    Do the very best work you can and watch yourself and your career grow!  Make sure you “brag” about your organization at every opportunity and the work you’re involved in to boost the well-being of the organization.

Will any Organization Be Perfect?

No.  Strangers coming together for a common cause fueled by passion is a recipe for disagreements.  Collaboration is a key skill.  Tolerance for other points of view, a demoractic attitude  towards decision-making and the ability to voice your opinions effectively and persuasively will serve you well.  If you don’t have those skills, they will be honed to the nth degree on a board of directors.

Lorraine Arams, Consultant, Facilitator
On Contract Only

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