Before You Say "Yes" to the Board Position
As a consultant to nonprofits, I spend a lot of time helping boards to clearly articulate their roles and responsibilities for board service and advising nominating (or leadership development) committees how to best assess the desired skills, attributes and characteristics of prospective board members needed to complement their existing boards and the strategic direction of the organizations.
One step this is too often overlooked is asking the prospective board member to reflect if serving on the board at this moment in time is a good match for them. Nominating committees are so anxious to get a “yes” that they sometimes don’t give enough information about their true expectations of board members in fear of deterring candidates or help the candidates who may not be experienced in the nonprofit realm carefully evaluate the opportunity and commitment of board service. When these steps are skipped, boards are often disappointed or underwhelmed by individuals’ contributions and board members can feel caught off guard or misled.
Boards don’t need bodies in seats. Boards need people who are passionate about the mission, understand what is expected of them and are ready and able to contribute in a meaningful way. Proper due diligence by both sides is the best way to set the volunteer and the organization up for success.
Below are some suggested questions that nominating committees can use to guide the information they provide to prospective nominees and to give out to prospective board members and ask them to seriously consider before they say “yes”.
Key Questions for Prospective Board Members
- Do You Know Enough About the Organization and Does Its Work Speak to Your Heart?
- Does the mission speak to you?
- Do you share the vision of the organization?
- Have you toured the organization?
- Are you familiar with the programs or services?
- Have you met those served?
- Do you care about this organization beyond “What’s in it for me?”
- Does Serving on this Particular Board Feel Exciting?
- Have you met the other board members?
- How big is the board? Who is the current or incoming chair? What is the committee structure?
- Will your skills and talents be leveraged by the board? How?
- Can You—and Do You Want to—Fulfill What is Expected of You as a Board Member of this Organization?
- What are board members’ roles and responsibilities?
- Do you have a policy of “give, get, or get off?”
- Do you feel like you want to give money to this organization?
- Are you willing to ask others to give money to this organization?
- Do you feel like you could be an ambassador for the organization and its mission?
- Does serving on this board pose any conflict of interests for you?
- What training do new board members receive?
- Do the Time, Timing and Logistics of Serving Work for You?
- How long is the term, and do you have term limits?
- What is the time commitment for board members?
- How often and when does the board meet?
- In general, how long are meetings?
- Can you participate via tele- or video conference during meetings?
- Are there any board retreats or other special sessions?
What other questions would you add? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org