Are you ready to join a NFP board?
It’s time to step it up! You might have a burning desire to change the world for the better. You might want to put your leadership and teamwork skills to the ultimate test. Or you know it’s time to use your voice for the good of others and the community.
Quite literally, the experience of contributing to a board can be life-changing!
When you can connect to a deeper purpose in life, one that’s above personal gain, fame, or fortune – something that truly means something and makes a difference – it’s a game-changer. Serving on a board gives you the opportunity to make an immense difference in others. It also broadens your networks and creates deep and long lasting relationships. Not to mention the opportunity to learn SO many new skills at the same time! It really can be one of the best leadership development opportunities you can come by.
But it’s a huge decision! How do you know when it’s the right time to jump in?
Here are eight signs that it could be the right time for you to join a NFP Board.
1. You have the time and energy to commit to a board
First things first – do you have the time to truly commit? Some people are surprised at how much time and effort a board position can take. And you don’t want to take on a board role only to find that you don’t have the time to really give it your best.
So how long do you need? Do you have 5 – 15 hours per month to contribute to a board position?
This time could include board meetings, sub-committee meetings, annual strategy sessions, leadership responsibilities, representing the organisation at external events, as well as social activities where you represent the board internally. Ensure you have the time to give!
2. You are ready to work effectively with others to fulfill the mission of the organisation.
As a board, you will work closely with other board members to fulfil the mission of the organisation. You will want to check out who is serving on the board before you accept any position. Because you’ll be working pretty closely together!
Are you an effective team player who communicates well with others, shows emotional intelligence in the boardroom, and can lead sub-committees or volunteers to work on aspects of the organisation? You might want to get some critical feedback and ways to improve before you hit the boardroom.
Boardroom behaviours are so important when you are working in short spaces of time e.g board meetings! Leaving egos at the door and working effectively with others (however different to you) is a MUST!
3. You’ve done your due diligence
What does due diligence even mean? Simply put, it’s the research or investigation you do before commiting to something to avoid any trouble. So in a board context, you want to ensure the organisation has the appropriate insurances, is registered with the appropriate bodies, and is financially solvent!
Do you know the right questions to ask before accepting a position? Have you done your own research about the board and organisation?
Reading the annual report, checking the finances of the organisation, and understanding the brand/history of the organisation is a MUST. And this could be just the start of your due diligence. You want to make sure the organisation is suitable before signing up as a board director.
4. You understand your responsibilities as a board director
The best board members understand the unique role the board plays within an organisation – strategy, governance, financial oversight, compliance, risk management, etc. It’s nose in, fingers out! This means you have to have a good understanding of what is going on in the organisation but not get involved in the details.
Perhaps you need to educate yourself about the roles of governance before stepping up? Do you understand the difference between the board and management of a community organisation? Are you sure of the liabilities that you take on?
Having a thorough understanding of what’s expected of you as a director is integral. It will give you peace of mind knowing you are fulfilling the role appropriately.
5. You understand the board’s expectations of you
Most boards will have some type of recruitment process that may include a position description. This will outline the key expectations of the role in terms of hours, skills, and knowledge preferred or required and the meeting schedule. This is a great starting point, and you may have further questions about the cultural fit between you and the board too.
You might also want to explore YOUR expectations and the type of experience you are expecting. Are you looking for a formal board role? Something more relaxed and grassroots? Do you like the excitement of a start-up or are you interested in contributing to a more established organisation?
It’s definitely best to have these conversations before joining any board!
6. You understand the NFP sector landscape including the current challenges and opportunities
It’s called the third sector for a reason – Not-for-profits are different to the corporate and government sectors!
If you have not been involved in the NFP sector, it’s time to to your research and read up!
Reading NFP publications, attending conferences and events, and understanding the broader trends that affect mission-based organisations are good strategies for being an effective board member. There are also online blogs, LinkedIN groups, and peak organisations to improve your NFP knowledge.
Boards are looking for directors who have their finger on the pulse, who can identify the key trends, and translate that back to the organisation.
7. You understand your own value proposition and what you can contribute
You need to be really clear about what you offer. What value do you bring to the table?
And it actually takes a fair amount of self awareness to understand the value that you provide and be able to effectively communicate it. Sometimes people might know the value that they can bring but can’t articulate it very well at a networking event or through their Board resume.
Your board value may include your skills and expertise. But it could also include your networks, your lived experience, or your ability to step into leadership roles down the track e.g Sub Committee Chair or Board Secretary.
8. You’ve found an organisation that aligns with your purpose and values
In your search, you will want to do the mission test.
Do you wholeheartedly believe in the mission of the organisation and picture yourself standing as a proud ambassador for the organisation?
This is the mission test!
The richness comes from finding an organisation whose mission aligns with your purpose and values. That means you have to know what your own purpose and values are to find that right fit for you.
This is worth the time and effort because when you find a board and organisation that truly aligns with your own purpose and values, the energy and reward you feel for your contribution will make the time and work all worthwhile!
How did you go?
I know what you’re thinking!
There is much work to be done before signing up to be a board director.
Boards are looking for directors who understand the above and are ready to fully commit to the term of the board. When all the stars align, you will know you’re onto a winner!
Now over to you: How many of the above do you feel comfortable with? Which areas do you need to improve before you’re ready to join a NFP board?