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The pandemic has caused leaders to rethink their potential and the impact they can have on their communities. Volunteering to serve on not-for-profit boards will emerge as an important trend in the next twelve months. They will bring with them their business experience, judgment, knowledge, and skills that can be applied to not-for-profit organizations to achieve outstanding results.
Like corporate boards, not-for-profit boards have major fiduciary responsibilities. Governing boards provide critical oversight for the development of annual budgets and accountability in institutions like credit unions, universities, foundations, and health care organizations. Currency is critical and has become the new “currency” for not for profit services.
The volunteer board members work to make their organizations financially secure through their leadership in good governance and transparency. They provide insights into strategic goals, the ability to engage in a successful strategic planning process and oversight into the management of risk.
To define board service and reasonable expectations is difficult and time-consuming work. Yet business leaders are increasingly making time for it. In addition to the intrinsic benefits it brings, service-oriented people and their companies are discovering ancillary business benefits. Board service can positively impact the brand of a company. These volunteers create personal and business connections that are both life-enriching and often useful in their work. They further their connectivity within their communities, and their work exposes them to the current thinking of other service minded professionals representing a spectrum of industries.
For many professionals, especially younger ones, board service is a new experience that requires thoughtful consideration before committing to an organization. When invited to join a board, every potential director or trustee must ask themselves about their aspirations for joining, and their capacity to serve once they do.
It's probably no surprise to learn that passion for the cause ranks very highly when considering a new board member, as is the ability to work well with others. However, what many novice board members do not realize is that they will be expected to help fundraise for the organization.
Besides, nonprofit boards often enjoy being affiliated with people who are well known and well connected. As such, they might look for potential board members in particular professions that can provide specific expertise or a connection to a specific group or political party. They may also place more value on wealthy board members or of a particular age group.
When you're approached for a board position, it's equally vital to ask yourself some questions and do some organizational analysis before you open up to serving on a board. Funding for Good, a resource about nonprofit boards, suggests that before considering board service, potential board members should ask themselves questions that include the following considerations:
To be on a nonprofit board can be intense. Therefore, you must start with a strong commitment to the mission that will help you stick with it. If you cannot find a passion for the board’s mission, it’s better to decline the offer.
Nonprofits need a wide range of skills from board members. Do your education, interests, and skills fit with the nonprofit's needs? You must evaluate it thoroughly before taking up a board position on a not-for-profit board.
Stability and longevity matter. A brand new organization may require far more work than one that has been around for a while and has all its processes in place. Are you willing to put in the work this nonprofit is likely to need? Consider it before joining the board.
While the board looks for the quality in their board members, you must do the same. For instance, how often does it meet? Is a monetary contribution required or a certain number of hours volunteered as many boards require board members to donate a particular sum of money annually? How are board members involved with fundraising?
You must know about the history of the organization you want to join. You should consider their success and failure graph. Has celebrated any big wins lately? Or does it seem to be always struggling to stay afloat? Based on it, ask yourself if you want to be involved with a struggling endeavor? What challenges does this organization seem to face? Are there demographic challenges? Monetary ones? Competition for funds or clientele? Can you help with any of the issues? Or do the challenges seem overwhelming? The more questions you ask the more clarity you will have.
Finally, when you serve on a board, you have legal obligations, such as the duty of care. You may have to participate actively in making decisions on behalf of the organization. Also, you must put the interests of the organization before professional and personal interests. Furthermore, you should ensure that the organization complies with all laws and adheres to its mission.
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