Interested in becoming a nonprofit board member?
Joining a board of directors is not only a great addition to your resume, but a great way to help shape your community.
The Whatcom Community Foundation launched a new Board Match Program October 2016. The training was six hours over two evenings and included engaging presentations, open discussion, live interviews of current board members, and ‘meet and greets’ with nonprofits looking for new board members.
They developed the program to entice potential leaders within the local community to engage in nonprofit board service. Overall, the training introduced a number of dedicated, local nonprofits and clearly outlined what it takes to be a successful board member. Additionally, it served as a fantastic way to network with other community-committed people.
My Board Member Match Experience
I personally had the chance to meet with four different nonprofits – some Executive Directors and some Board members. We had 10 minutes with each nonprofit to learn more about their cause, what they’re looking for in a board member, and what service looks like to them. In turn, attendees described their backgrounds, what they might be able to offer, and what interested them about the nonprofit. At the final wrap up, many of the attendees felt inspired and energized by the amount of dedicated people within our community.
We heard a number of characteristics necessary to make a successful board member, including attentiveness, kindness, and creativity. However, what stood out to me most, was preparedness. A good member does his or her research and reading beforehand, makes time to make the meetings, and shows up ready to engage.
The networking was fantastic. Not only did we get to meet established nonprofits, but dedicated, passionate people looking to be more engaged. Attendees included relatively recent college grads to those well seasoned in the job market. There were directors, HR representatives, bankers, consultants, and more. Everyone had a unique set of skills and perspectives.
Perhaps one of the most beneficial pieces of the training was identifying what you had to offer. There are many, many nonprofits in Whatcom County who are all looking for very different things. Together, we brainstormed various strengths including personal skills like asking questions, niche skills like digital marketing or Google Ad Grants, more general skills such as longevity within the community, and many more.
How to Find the Right Board for You
Before you can become a valuable asset to a board, you need to find one that is a good fit for you.
- Do your research. Find an organization that you are genuinely and passionately interested in. From the packet of 20-something boards looking for new members, I found required commitments from 1-to-4 years, depending on the organization.
- Ask questions. Why are they looking for new board members? Perhaps term limits are up, people weren’t able to fill the time commitments, or maybe the board lacks a positive dynamic. Also, does service fit within your schedule? Some boards may require additional committee time or even a minimum annual donation.
- Attend a meeting. See if you can sit in on their next meeting to get a feel for it. Bonus tip: ask for the previous meeting’s notes to read beforehand so you can follow along better
- Follow-up with them. Don’t wait for them to call you. If you are or aren’t interested, let them know and why.
To conclude, if you have little-to-no board experience and are looking for a nonprofit to potentially serve with, we highly suggest you attend the next Board Match Program (time TBD).