How to be a Good Board Member Serving a Nonprofit

Serving as a board member for a nonprofit looks great on your resume, yes, but more than that it’s rewarding. When you as the board member and the nonprofit are well matched, we can guarantee both parties will benefit. But how do you choose the right nonprofit? And once you have agreed to serve on the board, what does it take to be a great board member?

We’re so glad you asked because we have answers!

Choosing The Right Nonprofit

 We know your time is valuable, and that you cannot say yes to every volunteer opportunity. This is why it’s important to look at compatibility:

  • Are you a good fit?
  • Do your passions intersect?
  • What is it about you that the nonprofit values? Is it your skills? Connections?

You also need to look at the nonprofit’s expectations:

  • Can you make their monthly meetings?
  • Is there a cost involved?
  • Do they offer training for new board members?

Take some time to answer these questions, and also make sure you’re excited about the opportunity. If you are passionate about the organization and their cause, it will absolutely reflect in how you serve their board. For some additional tips on how to choose the right nonprofit board, consider this great resource: Before You Say Yes…A Guide to the Pleasures and Pitfalls of Volunteer Boards.

Serving As A Nonprofit Board Member

You just said yes (congratulations!) to serve a nonprofit you’re passionate about on their board of directors. Now what? We want you to excel, which is why we’re giving you our best tips!

Tip #1: Practice Great Judgment

Solid judgment is one of the most ideal traits for any board member. Good judgment will help you and the board successfully navigate any difficult situations you come across, help with strategy development, organizational design and tough decisions such as hiring and firing the CEO/Executive Director. It’s critical to keep an open mind, listen to others and work as a team.

Tip #2: Pull From Your Experiences

Chances are you were recruited to serve as a board member because you have relevant experience, which means you can offer applicable advice, so don’t leave your professional experience at the boardroom door. Pull from your experiences when voicing your opinions. Likewise, know when you’re out of your element, or may not have the best advice, and look to your colleagues to help.

Tip #3: Be Open Minded and Respect Others

Take the time to learn how others want to be treated, and treat them that way. They may be coming from a different place than you, and understanding that benefits everyone. Just as you would in the workplace, treat your fellow board members and the nonprofit staff with kindness and respect. If you run into issues, or have a different opinion than some of your other board members, communicate them in a positive, solution-oriented way.

Tip #4: Have Courage

Serving on a nonprofit board means you need to have courage, namely in facing hard truths and making tough calls when needed. While we recognize this is challenging for many, you will be doing a disservice to the nonprofit if you don’t speak up and do what needs to be done.

Your time is valuable, and so is the nonprofit you’re serving. We would encourage you to actively listen to those around you, pose questions and challenges and stay motivated and engaged to best serve on a nonprofit board. For more on challenges and tasks that all nonprofit boards face, click here.

Would you add any other tips to our list? Or perhaps you have questions? Send us an email; we’d love to discuss this topic in greater depth with you!

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By Kerry Sokol