As careers progress and successes (hopefully) mount, you may be asked to consider serving on the Board of Directors of a non-profit organization. Before you follow the pleadings of your better angels and agree to serve, here are six things to consider:
- Organization Staff. Does the organization have a large staff? A small staff? No staff at all? The size and skill set of the staff will have a direct impact on your role. The smaller the staff, the more operational of a role you may be asked to play. With a larger staff your role may be solely strategic.
- Financial Stability. A non-profit needs to have a viable financial model just as much as their for-profit cousins. You need to understand this model before committing to serve. Yes, you may be able to help fix a bad model from the inside but you need to know about any challenges before you begin.
- Staff-Board Fit. You should always talk to as many staff members and existing Board members before you agree to serve. Understanding the current working relationship between the staff and the board–and its impact on the programs of the organization–will be critical to early and long-term success.
- Mission-Individual Fit. It is not enough simply to know what the mission of the organization is, you need be comfortable with how well the mission is being implemented on a daily basis. Furthermore, you need to agree with and be able to fully support the mission.
- Governance Processes. Good governance processes and adequate controls not only allow an organization to function efficiently, they are key to protecting both the staff and the board from unwise or ill-advised actions. Governance should never be viewed as unnecessary bureaucracy, but, rather, a key component to success.
- Board “Asks”. Every board member should be added for a reason, whether it is a specific skill, knowledge, or professional and personal network. Additionally, most organizations will have specific “asks” that you need to understand at the beginning of your service (e.g. meeting attendance, ,introductions, financial support, etc.).
If you feel confident in you analysis of the above-mentioned items, you will most likely have a successful and enjoyable experience serving on the board of a non-profit. I know, personally, how much I treasure my experience serving Faith Family Medical Clinic and Grassland Athletic Association.