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 firstname.lastname@example.org.