It can be hard getting started and making a significant contribution as part of a non-profit board. Once you are selected, finding where to apply your unique gifts and hitting your stride often takes time but can be so rewarding! If you are considering board service or currently sit on a nonprofit board, here are some tips that may help you ramp up more quickly.
Ask Lots of Questions
Many of us haven’t served on a board before, and it’s easy to feel like we should know everything right out of the chute. Your peers understand that you are learning, and they value engagement and curiosity just as much as experience. To maximize your board term and get a running start, ask lots of questions about how you can help, why things are done a certain way, what the staff’s role is, etc.. You’ll be able to make an impact faster with those answers.
Reach out to your fellow board members outside of planned events. Get to know them and how they are working to further the mission. They’re experiences and input are invaluable. Also, the bonding and friendships that form help everyone work better together as a team.
Finding a mentor is even better. Pair up with a more senior member of the nonprofit board early on to be shown the ropes and gain great insight into what has worked well in the past.
Find your Niche
You were chosen by the board for specific reasons and strengths. Find a focus area that others may not be eager to fill and then build a plan to become invaluable in that area. Find a project or a committee that is particularly suited to your strengths, too, so that you enjoy your board service. It’s a two-way street, and you should be getting something out of the experience while you give your time and talents!
Nonprofit board meetings can be few and far between. The board I am honored to serve on holds meetings every other month, so only 6 times a year! That makes your term fly by, so you’ve got to plan how you intend to make an impact the other 359 days of the year.
I plan out my week each Sunday evening, and I have a spot in my planner allocated to my non-profit work. Each week, I write down at least one action that I can take to further the mission.
Asking for money, sales, fundraising – whatever you call it – is not comfortable for a lot of people! Nonetheless, this is one of the MAIN activities expected of a board member and probably the most important skill you can build and deliver to benefit your non-profit organization. Before joining a board, think seriously about the commitment you are willing to make in donating and raising funds for this organization. A board spot is coveted, and the organization needs to fill it with someone who can support the fundraising mission.
Make the most of your nonprofit board service with a plan and ambitious goals. That way, at the end of your board term, you can look back on all that you have accomplished!