Everything You Need to Know Before Joining a Board

Maybe you’ve been giving to an organization for a while and are interested in expanding your involvement by joining its board of directors. Or perhaps you have been approached by an acquaintance to join the board of their favorite charity. In fact, nearly half of Fidelity Charitable donors who volunteer do so by serving on the board of a nonprofit organization. It can be a rewarding experience—and an opportunity to have an even greater impact on a cause than you would as a donor alone.

How do you join a board?
  1. Learn more about the organization. …
  2. Speak with board members. …
  3. Evaluate the need for your specialty. …
  4. Network with professionals in the field. …
  5. Serve on a committee. …
  6. Support initiatives. …
  7. Refresh your resume. …
  8. Prepare for an interview.

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Why consider joining a board?

There are several reasons to consider becoming a member of a board for an organization, including:

What is a board?

A board is a group of individuals who are responsible for governing and overseeing the activities of a for-profit company or nonprofit organization. The board members work together to develop the goals of the organization they represent and may form strategies that the employees of the organization follow to support those goals. In a board, there are usually many roles, including:

What qualifications do you need to join a board?

Although the qualifications to join a board varies by state and whether the board oversees a nonprofit or for-profit organization, here are some basic qualifications that many boards may look for when selecting its new member:

What does a board do?

There are several responsibilities of a board, including:

How do you join a board?

Consider these steps if you want to become a member of the board for a corporate or nonprofit organization:

1. Learn more about the organization

Its important to learn more about the organization before taking additional steps to join a board because your knowledge of the boards activities can help you decide if its the right position for you. Consider reviewing the organizations bylaws, annual reports, tax filings and any previous minutes the board has recorded so you can see what the group normally discusses and how they come to organizational decisions. You can also review their policies to understand more about operations and determine if the tasks youll be responsible for interest you.

2. Speak with board members

Board members are usually accessible to others because they often seek to establish a connection between the organization and the community they serve. Consider contacting current board members and asking if theyd be available to meet with you to discuss their position on the board. You can express your interest in joining the board and ask questions about the level of commitment and typical responsibilities of the role. Not only can this expose you to board members who likely decide who joins, but your knowledge of board activities can also confirm your interest.

3. Evaluate the need for your specialty

By speaking with the board and learning more about the organization, you may discover that you have a certain expertise thats not currently being served by the board members. This can help you secure a position on the board, especially if youre able to share how you can benefit the organization through your skills and experience. For example, you may find out that other board members have finance, legal and HR backgrounds, but if you have a marketing background, you can provide a variety of skills that makes the board more capable of providing for the organization it serves.

4. Network with professionals in the field

Although youll likely network with others as part of your position on the board, its also important to network with professionals prior to securing the position. You can join industry-specific membership organizations, attend valuable conferences and connect with both the speakers and attendees, leave comments on blogs and use networking websites and forums to find others who may share the same professional interests and personal passions. The connections you make prior to applying to the board may be able to write you a letter of recommendation or provide you with valuable insight on how to secure a board position.

5. Serve on a committee

Many individuals first serve on a committee at the organization before joining the board. This experience can provide you with the opportunity to work closely with the board and showcase the skills you have that can make you a valuable part of the board. Consider how you can take on leadership roles on a committee or manage a committee project and how that experience can show a board what youre capable of. You can share what youve accomplished as part of the committee when youre writing your resume or interviewing for board membership.

6. Support initiatives

Once you find a nonprofit board youd like to join, consider supporting the same initiatives they do. You can support the organization by volunteering your time, donating your money or sharing more about its mission with your personal and professional contacts. During your interview for a board position, the current members may ask you more about your interest in the organization and, if youve supported it in the past, you should be able to speak about that. This can also show your commitment to their cause and how important becoming a board member is to you.

7. Refresh your resume

Although board members will likely want to learn more about your work experience, certifications, education and other details youd normally include on a typical resume, they also probably want to know about other aspects of your past that can show youd be a good fit as a member of the board. Consider editing your resume to focus mainly on the experience you have that matches well with the tasks youll have as a member of the board.

For example, you may highlight your volunteer experience, leadership roles, important projects youve been a part of that required a lot of decision-making and any soft and hard skills that highlight your unique abilities. When youre done, read your resume again to make sure its easy to understand, free of errors and can convince board members to consider your application.

8. Prepare for an interview

Just like with any position, an interview process with members of the board is common before they select you for a role among them. To prepare, review your resume to remind yourself of whats on there and practice common interview questions for board positions. You can ask a trusted colleague to give you honest feedback about your answers so you can refine them and make sure youre accurately portraying yourself during the interview.

9. Follow up

Board members are busy with a lot of responsibilities and may also interview multiple candidates for an open position on the board. However, if you havent heard from anyone following an interview, contemplate emailing your primary contact to ask what the status of your application is or if there is anything else you can answer for them. Be sure to acknowledge their busy schedule and your appreciation for the time theyve spent with you so far.

FAQ

What should I know before joining a board?

Expert Perspectives and Advice on Becoming a Corporate Board Member
  1. Networking. …
  2. Show Leadership Skills. …
  3. Have Financial Background. …
  4. Prove Your Expertise. …
  5. Express Your Interest in the Company’s Business. …
  6. Garner Experience by Sitting on a Nonprofit Board.

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