Are You Ready to Serve on a Nonprofit Board? Here’s What You Need to Know.

Joining a nonprofit board is an investment of time, money and resources for you. Investing in a nonprofit board member is also a commitment for nonprofit organizations, as most provide new board members with an orientation package and training to help them quickly get up to speed on the proceedings of the board.

Before you decide to jump in and serve on a nonprofit board, determine if the board you’re considering is a good match. Determining a good match involves many of the considerations you would assess when accepting a new job or starting a business. Here are four key points you need to consider to find a nonprofit board that fits you:

1. Your passions and personal interests
Before accepting a board position, consider your passions and personal interests to determine if they’re aligned with the nonprofit’s mission. Perhaps education is the cause closest to your heart. Maybe it’s fighting cancer or rebuilding communities. Whichever issues you prioritize, nonprofit board service will allow you to put your passion into action in a meaningful way. Narrow your options by focusing on the nonprofits that address an issue that you personally care about.

2. The skills you can offer
Whether you have years of experience in finance or are just starting out in marketing, you have some level of expertise you can offer a nonprofit board. To present yourself as a strong potential board member, consider what skills or strengths you have and how you can apply them as a board member. If you already have specific boards in mind, reach out to the boards’ officers or directors to learn what skill gaps exist on their board and map out how you can use your abilities to build capacity at the organization.

3. Your long-term plan for professional growth
Serving on a nonprofit board can positively impact your professional and personal development. Determine if you want to be strategic about serving on boards that address causes that are aligned with what you do professionally. For instance, if you work in the finance industry, it would make sense to serve on the board for a nonprofit that addresses economic inequality. Whether you decide to support a nonprofit aligned with your profession or passion, your work on its board will demonstrate your commitment to the community while helping you to meet more dedicated, like-minded people.

4. The nonprofit’s financials and leadership
The success and effectiveness of a nonprofit relies heavily on its financial health and leadership. Take the time to research an organization by evaluating its annual report and current executive leadership team. Many of your responsibilities as a nonprofit board member will involve working with the nonprofit organization’s leadership team and handling its finances. Having a clear understanding of the organization will help you determine if a nonprofit is fiscally responsible and intentionally pursuing its mission.

guide to nonprofit board service

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Emily Knippa

Emily Knippa is a St. Louis-based marketer and writer who focuses on content marketing, career development, and personal finance. She enjoys meeting people pursuing inspiring career paths. She’d love to meet you at the next United Way event. Say hello to Emily on Twitter at @emilyknippa.