board members

How to Be the Best Board Member Ever

One of the things I enjoy most is assisting organizations in building a great board of directors.  This is a challenging job, because the chemistry has to be the right mix of dedication and responsibility. People who are looking to contribute their skills, experience, and expertise as  volunteer board members often don't know what questions to ask before joining a board. I suggest using the following checklist to evaluate the organizations you might want to serve:

  • Is this a cause I feel passionate about?  Whatever the cause- animal rights, education, cancer advocacy, social policy- for any of the thousands of organizations that need guidance, really caring about the mission is a key element to being a good board member. Think carefully about what excites you, or what areas you might want to learn more about before committing yourself.
  • What will I actually be asked to do as a board member?  The needs of an organization that is just starting out are very different from those of a more mature organization, and the same is true of what the expectations are for board members. In addition to the time commitment, you should assess how your skill set fits in with what the board's needs are.  Ideally, there should be a written job description that details a board member's role and responsibilities.
  • What will be my financial obligation?  All organizations should have a written policy regarding board members' contributions.  Some have a "give or get" policy, and some work on a sliding scale depending on ability or tenure, but you should be prepared to support the organization financially if you join the board.
  • Is there a strategic plan?  Even organizations that have not gone through a formal strategic planning process can have a good idea of their road map toward growth and success.  Make sure to ask where they see themselves in a year, three years and five years down the road. This will give you an idea of how well the organization is equipped to face the future.
  • What are the organization's biggest challenges? Ask this question of the board chair, the CEO and other board members and stakeholders.  And don't be surprised if you get a different answer from everyone you ask!


If you are looking to volunteer your time, skills and experience for board service, I would like to help you find the right fit. And if you are an organization looking to develop a great board, I would love to help you do that. Please be in touch at


What Does My Board Need to Succeed?

The age-old question of what nonprofit leaders can do to make their board members more productive has many possible answers. A recent study by accounting firm Marks Paneth reveals that more training would be beneficial in fostering more board involvement in governance and strategy. That's all fine and good, but most of the nonprofit leaders surveyed said limited time and cost are significant deterrents to providing this training. This is not news to anyone who knows about board development. The good news from the survey is that 73% of the leaders surveyed report that their boards have passion for the mission of the organization, and 61% said their board members are engaged but do not micromanage. Most of the leaders also report that their board members are closely involved in financial oversight and that attendance at board meetings is strong.

However, only 28% reported that their boards are highly strategic in supporting the organization's mission, and around the same percentage said that the board is involved in connecting the organization to external resources.  These are not encouraging statistics.

I am committed to helping organizations succeed by engaging boards in a better understanding of their roles and responsibilities in supporting growth and instilling governance.  If you are a board member or leader who wants to help their organization find its path, please be in touch with me at