Joining a nonprofit board is a great way for an executive to give back to the community. And as an executive, you likely have the leadership skills and diverse business experience most nonprofits are seeking in their board members. But what else does it take to unlock the boardroom door? Do you need deep pockets or corporate connections? Do you need experience within the nonprofit's sector? How can someone with no nonprofit or board experience get a seat at the table?
Kate Rubalcava, CEO of Utah Nonprofits Association (UNA), says the No. 1 attribute nonprofits are looking for in their board members is passion. The second requirement is commitment.
"Great things happen when you have people around the table who are passionate and committed to the organization, but it's a serious commitment," she says. "Make sure you understand all the obligations of serving. You will have a legal and fiscal responsibility. You will have to commit time, expertise and financial contributions."
Joining a nonprofit board is a decision that shouldn't be taken lightly. While it will likely bring you personal joy and satisfaction, as well as provide a valuable service to the community, board service requires work and dedication. It's important to think through your decision to make sure it's a win-win for you and the organization.
What speaks to your heart?
Determining which nonprofit you'd like to serve is a personal decision that requires introspection and research. If you're not sure where to begin, Rubalcava says to start with whatever you're passionate about.
"What gets you going? Is it working with kids? Is it serving the homeless community? Is it working with an organization that helps animals or the environment?" she says. "Once an executive figures that piece out, it's easy. At that point, if you want to work for kids, for example, you do research and look into organizations that have a mission to help kids. The key is to connect with organizations that have missions that speak to your heart. If it doesn't speak to your heart, then it's not a good match."
Once you determine a few possibilities, research the organizations. Read about their missions, histories, financial situations and growth trajectories. Most of this information can easily be found online. Also look at the current board. How many members does it include? Are there term limits? Is it a diverse group of individuals? Who is the board chair?
If you know someone who is involved in the nonprofit...