Serving on a Non-Profit Board of Directors: Five Key Questions to Ask

Volunteering may be something you enjoy – giving of time, talents, and providing needed assistance.  It is an important part of many lives and does much for a community. Perhaps you have been approached to step up from those volunteer activities and have been asked to serve on an agency’s Board of Directors.  What does that mean?  What kind of responsibility does that entail?  Good questions all.  There are five key questions that you may want to address before agreeing to serve on a non-profit Board.

What is a Board of Directors? 

By definition, a nonprofit Board of Directors is the “governing body of a non-profit comprised of individuals who sit on the board and are responsible for overseeing the activities of the organization.  Members meet and vote on the affairs of the organization.”

According to the Midwest Center for Non-Profit Leadership, a board member has three fiduciary duties – care, loyalty, and obedience.  Basically, a board member should be actively engaged and involved in the agency, work toward the interests of the agency, and possess a knowledge of the state/federal governing laws to work within those guidelines.

What are some key questions to ask before agreeing to serve on a non-profit board?

  1. What is the strategic plan or direction for the organization? Is the plan reviewed on a regular basis?  Documenting the short and long-term plans is important to the agency.  Having a perspective on the direction impacts the agency, the community, and ultimately, your role in helping to achieve those goals.
  2. Are the responsibilities of the board members defined?Do members have unique expertise that they bring to the board, perhaps from their corporate/work environment or skillset? What are the expectations for a board member?  How many years do board members serve?
  3. Is there an information packet available for prospective board members? Reviewing information on the agency, the board, and expectations is an important step in deciding to serve.  Personal research is an option; however, having information on hand may expedite a decision.
  4. What are the fundraising requirements for a board member? Fundraising is an important component for most non-profit organizations.  Assessing your personal comfort level in asking for donations may be necessary. In many cases, board members are expected to participate actively in fundraising endeavors, which may include cold calls, adding personal notes to mailings, working on a fundraising event, or perhaps speaking to a group of potential contributors.
  5. What is the time commitment? How many times does the board meet?  Ideally, most boards meet monthly.  Are the meetings during normal work hours? If so, how will that impact your work and work/life balance?  Depending on personal circumstances, the time factor may be a critical decision-making component.

Take time to think through what may be required of you to serve as a board member.  Yes, it is an important role.  Be sure it’s a role you would enjoy and that would be fulfilling to you as well as the agency.  Community involvement has a far-reaching impact on the current and future generations. Help is needed in many avenues with many different skill sets needed.  Working to improve our communities takes all of us working together toward common goals.  If asked to serve, do your research before making a decision.  Stepping up and stepping out to help our community keeps it growing!




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