Before you read further take a moment to estimate how many hours a week/month a role on a NFP Board involves? What would be your guess?
Serving on a community board is a wonderful opportunity. When you find the right board role for you, it should energise you despite the time you devote to it. It may energise you through the tasks you are completing, the people you are working with (your fellow board directors) or the impact you are creating.
Let’s face it though, it’s really important to understand exactly the hours involved in a NFP Board position before you accept. The true answer to the time questions above is that it depends on the board, role and organisation as to many hours you need to commit.
However let me break down what the commitment could look like so you can get a sense of the components of a board role.
Most Boards would meet either monthly, every second month or quarterly from 2 hours to 5 hours each. This would be your core responsibility to prepare, meet and participate.
Most board meetings might require this same time again in preparing for board meetings by reading the board papers, thinking through decisions and questions. You may pose these questions to the CEO or staff before a meeting or let them know that you will ask these questions at the meeting. You may also need to prepare reports for the meeting yourself such as Sub Committee reports, Board papers with an idea or suggestion, or you may have prepared a piece of work for the Board’s consideration such an update to a policy document.
Board meetings are the foundations of your board responsibility so attendance at each and every one is critical.
Sub Committee Meetings
Most Boards have Sub Committees that you would either lead or play a role in to support the Board in the work that’s required.
These Sub Committees have their own Terms of Reference and meetings can occur sometime occur less often than a Board meeting for 1- 2 hours. These Sub Committees could include Governance, Audit and Risk, Financial/Budget, Fundraising, Board Nominations, Clinical Governance and Marketing and Communications as examples.
Sub Committees are used to delegate work by the Board so they can focus their time at Board meetings. Sub Committees can provide information and make recommendations to the Board for action that’s needed.
Annual Strategy Session/s
Most boards may have a separate session focused on reviewing the strategy. This could involve a day or two to review the current strategy, monitor progress of the strategy or develop a new strategy. It may be an off site event where the board travels to a different location. There may also be a number of meetings to prepare for the annual strategy session too.
If you hold any leadership responsibilities (Board Chair, Secretary, Treasurer, Sub Committee Chair), this will involve further hours to prepare, connect with staff or your fellow board members. Preparation could include developing reports, agendas, work with the CEO or gather information for the Board papers. And let’s not forget emails too – this is a responsibility of all board directors!
You may be called to represent the board at further meetings and events. This could include meeting various stakeholders, speaking at events on behalf of the organisation, attending networking events or meeting with donors.
Many organisations have a range of social activities that board directors can or must be involved with. This may give board members an opportunity to meet and speak with staff, members or recipients of their services. This could include Christmas parties, National Volunteer Week or an annual awards celebrations. Some boards may share dinner together before or after a board meeting too.
So how much does this equal to?
So a Board commitment could be anywhere between one to four days a month. This would mostly be done outside of normal working hours. In fact, in a previous Australian Institute of Company Directors NFP Governance Report, it suggested that most NFP Board members contributes 35 days a year to their board position. 35 days per year is just under 3 days a month.
So how does that sit with your expectations of serving on a NFP board?
Surprised at the commitment? Ready for the commitment? It’s definitely good to know what you’re in for!