So, you have reached a point in your life where your support of an organization, your passion for a cause, or your professional position has resulted in an invitation to join a non-profit’s Board of Directors. The first question that might come to mind is, “What is expected of me?” The next, more personal question might be, “What should I be looking for at this organization?”
What follows is a primer listing key questions for those considering joining a non-profit Board.
1. What should I be looking for at this organization?
- What is the mission of the organization? Does the mission of this organization fit with your core beliefs? Who does the organization serve and is that important to me?
- What are the organization’s programs? Do the current programs relate to the mission?
- Are the last three years of the organizations IRS form 990 available for your review? Are there any financial red flags? Remember, board members take on a fiduciary responsibility.
- Is there are formal Board Structure? If so, for how long? Is a formal Board structure in place? Are there bylaws, member expectations and a formal leadership structure?
- Is the Board clear and consistent in defining their work? Does the Board focus on strategic work or does it cross into areas that should be the responsibility of the staff?
- Does the organization have a strategic plan? Is the organization focused on the future and has it created a road map to arrive at its destination?
- Is there a system of checks and balances to prevent conflict of interest between board members and the organization?
- Does the organization have liability insurance that covers directors and administration? In case something goes wrong, is the Board protected?
2. What is expected of me?
- Are Board expectations clear? Do you know what you are being asked to do? Were you recruited with clear Board member expectations provided in writing?
- Will there be any training provided for you? What type of Board Development opportunities are available to you?
- Can I meet fundraising expectations? Is there an expectation to donate or get donations? Will I be expected to attend fundraising events?
- Can I be an advocate for the organization in the community?
- How often are Board meeting and where and when are they held? Will there be additional responsibilities to serve on Board sub-committees? In order to be a good Board member you should be able to attend and participate in the most of the scheduled meetings.
- What role will I play in soliciting donors? Does the organization expect for me to deliver donors? Directly fund raise?
- Is the Board membership stable? Has there been a history of Board members leaving before a completed term?
By asking and getting answers to these questions, you can better understand a prospective organizations mission, governance structure and expectations. Armed with this information, you can make a good decision to accept a Board position or not.