You certainly want to join the board of an organization where you find the mission meaningful. But be careful not to wind up in a situation that you will regret. You can save yourself and the non-profit from a bad match by taking a few steps before committing to join a board.
Here are 10 recommendations to candidates in considering a non-profit:
- Meet with the organization’s chief executive officer — sometimes referred to as the executive director. The CEO’s effectiveness is essential to the organization’s success, so getting a sense of the CEO is important. Additionally, the CEO is likely to have a say in who is selected for the board, so meeting is an opportunity for you to establish rapport. And, the CEO should be able to bring the organization’s work to life and help give you insights into items 2-9 below.
- Understand the work of the organization and how it assesses its effectiveness. It’s a good idea to visit at least one program site to see the program(s) and staff in action. Do they use a board Portal? Are they evaluating themselves? etc…
- Find out the size of the budget and the revenue model: what percentage of funding comes from government, fees for services, and philanthropy — corporations, foundations and individuals. When you know where the money comes from, or where it might be augmented, then you can better understand how the board can be useful to the CEO in building revenues.
- Find out who is chairing the board, and how they regard their role as chair and the role of the board. Try to get a sense of the rapport between the chair and the CEO. See who serves in the other officer positions. And ask if there is a plan for leadership succession.
- Meet with at least one board member, ideally a board member in a leadership position, such as the chair of the board governance committee (nominating committee) or board chair.
- Review the list of board members and their backgrounds to find out the caliber and diversity of experience and backgrounds. Find out the extent to which they are contributing financially and otherwise. This will also help you understand if you have something to add that others might not bring to the table and the likelihood of your being a fit for the board.
- Ask what will be expected of you as a board member, in terms of attendance at board meetings, participation on committees, financial contributions, fundraising and anything else.
- Ask for and read the following items: the organization’s bylaws, most recent audit and management letter, budget, a strategic plan if there is one, and organizational materials.
- Find out the size of the organization’s cash reserve. Also check if there is an endowment, whether the organization is cutting into it, and the implications and long-term plan related to the endowment.
- Google the organization to see if there were any past problems.
Don’t be scared away by an organization that has challenges. That’s exactly why they need you. Furthermore, your sense of reward and satisfaction will be magnified by your ability to be useful.
The key is finding the right board for you, and going in with your eyes wide open.
Read the full article: LinkedIn Board Connect: 10 Things Board Candidates Need To Know