Joining a nonprofit board allows you to lend a hand for a good cause, build your professional network, develop your skills, and even advance your career. But what is the best way to get on a board — and how should you evaluate board membership opportunities to determine whether a particular organization is the right one for you?
During conversations about board membership in our comment sections, two Corporette readers explained how rewarding they found their experiences:
The year-long process of putting myself out there [to join a board], figuring out what I care about, what my skills are, what organizations are doing good work… it was so valuable. It was great to push myself like that, and I think it will have huge benefits for me down the road, both in terms of career and personal growth. —Reader S
Lawyers (we’ve had a few since I’ve been on the board) are always welcome. It has been a great experience. … You might reach out to friends / contacts / coworkers whose volunteer work sounds interesting to you and explain you’re looking to become involved in X field, and ask if they know of any upcoming opportunities or have any suggestions for people to contact. —Reader A
If you’d like to get on a board, here are a few tips:
How to Get on a Board
Volunteer to show your commitment to the organization and learn more about it — you may be more likely to hear about board vacancies, too. A good way to get yourself on the radar of the board members: offer to take meeting notes at a board meeting or committee meeting.
Try a website like Boardsource, BoardnetUSA.org, Idealist.org, or VolunteerMatch.org to find a good organization that matches your interests, and sometimes even open board positions. (Ladies, we’d love to hear your experiences with these and other sites!)
When an interview for a board position arises, do some serious prep work if it’s your first opportunity to sit on a board. This young woman’s tale of how she got her first board seat shows you how much research can pay off!
Questions to Ask to Decide Whether To Join the Board
Once you’ve managed to get an interview, prepare with these tips we’ve gathered from readers on the important questions to ask:
- Find out how the board communicates — how many phone calls, emails, and meetings are typically involved.
- Try to ascertain the quality of a board’s operation and leadership by asking questions about decision-making and funding.
- Ask about the time commitment for board members as well as fundraising expectations (including personal donations and the selling of event tickets). Another good question: do board members have term limits?
- Ask about the committee structure and the expected participation for members.
- If you’re a lawyer, ask if you’ll be expected to provide legal advice.
- Find out whether the organization has Directors and Officers (D&O) insurance.
Further Reading on How to Get on a Board:
- How to Land Your First Board Position [Levo League]
- How to Get a Seat on a Non-Profit Board [Forbes]
- A Strategic Road Map to Joining a Nonprofit Board [American Bar Association]
- Nonprofit Boards: How to Find a Rewarding Board Position [The Bridgespan Group]
- When a Business Leader Joins a Nonprofit Board [Harvard Business Review]
- 3 steps to take if you want to join a nonprofit board [Idealist]
If you’ve joined a nonprofit board, did you enjoy the experience? Is there anything you wish you’d known beforehand? What advice would you give other women who want to get on a board?