The Board of Directors – the most ubiquitous topic in the nonprofit sector containing volumes of research on 1) what it takes to be a good Board member and 2) the responsibilities of a Board member (organizational oversight, fiduciary oversight and fundraising)….which would be a whole lot more fun if we called it advocacy, friend-raising, relationship building, movement building (alas, that is a convo for a different day…). Although, I have not found much material on the questions to ask yourself before agreeing to serve. Most of us get a phone call, or invited to a lunch with the CEO and Board Chair or an invitation from someone we like and admire. Flattered, we say “yes” and then get home and ask our dog, “what did I get myself into?”
Being on a Board can be one of the most challenging and rewarding experiences; serving a Board can be one of the most challenging and rewarding experiences. However, I think we can enhance the “rewarding” component by asking ourselves these four questions before making the important commitment to serve on a Board.
Questions to ask yourself before agreeing to serve on a Board:
1. Is this an area where I have real passion. Do I care deeply about this cause and am I willing to commit my precious time, talents and treasures to it? Be really honest with yourself here. There isn’t a right or wrong answer; there is just THE answer.
2. Of all the organizations engaged in this cause is this one whose culture resonates with me? Do I feel like it is a fit? Will I enjoy being a part of this organization’s journey? Do I believe in the leadership, culture, and values of this organization? Do I feel like I can make an impact? Do I feel as if my voice will be heard, my talents put to their best use, and that this experience will provide me with an opportunity to learn and grow.
3. Do I have the time, energy and resources to give this organization my best? Again, there is no right or wrong answer to this question; sometimes “right now” is not the best for the engagement required to be an excellent Board member and there are other important ways you can serve the organization such as financial supporter, advocate, volunteer or friend.
4. Do you have an interest in governance — wanting to support the organization in creating and moving a vision forward, thinking about “the change they want to see in the world because they exist?” “the relationships in the community that need to be developed to create this change?” and “the measurable, tangible benefit to they are providing to the community?”
If you can answer “yes” to these four questions, you are probably on your way to the beginning of a rewarding Board experience. I have served on many Boards, and these are the questions I wished someone had given me to deeply consider before I committed. The most rewarding, fun, meaningful Board experiences have unequivocally been the ones where I was able to answer YES to these four questions.