I can’t tell you the joy you can get from finding the right board role for you. It can give you energy, new networks, new learning and understanding, the opportunity to connect to a higher purpose, not to mention the impact that you can create!
Board roles are also a long term commitment. Many board roles come with a 2 or 3 year commitment (check the terms of reference!) and it can be expected that you take on more than one term. So before you run into that long term commitment you might want to do some thinking about the right board position for you.
So where do you start? What should you think about? How do you find the right board position so you can make a difference in the world?
“To move forward, you have to give back”
There are many considerations to take into account when finding the right board role for you. These considerations can include your passions and interests, the time you have available, the skill set you can bring, the size and age of the organisation and the core business of the organisation.
Let’s explore these considerations further.
Passions and Interests
Ultimately it is useful if you have a passion for the NFP you are supporting. So what gets that fire in your belly? You may have this passion before you get involved or you may develop this passion from getting to know more about the cause. Consider the issues that affect you, your family, your local community or explore the issues that you see in the media. Most often board positions are a voluntary effort so it must be something you are willing to dedicate significant time and effort. Let’s explore what you’re passionate about!
What passions and interests do you have?
It’s handy to do a personal audit of the time you have available to commit to a board role each month.. Some board roles may take 5 – 10 hours a month while others might need this per week. Understand the time required by the board. In the latest NFP Governance and Performance Study, the majority of board directors suggested time needed for their board role was 2 to 5 days a month (about 17 – 40 hours). Consider if you can be flexible and utilise some of your work week to do the board tasks necessary – this may be a conversation to have with your manager. Otherwise, what days/evenings do you have free to commit to meetings, events and board preparation?
What time do you have available for a board role?
Skill Set and Mix
Board composition is a key issue for many boards. Bringing together the right skills, demographics, diversity, networks and value. What value can you bring to a board and is it required for the organisation you are interested in? Some boards will require more traditional skills such as governance, legal or accounting whereas other boards might need more emerging skill sets such as entrepreneurship, marketing, culture and funding models. Check out the current board, chair and management team as these are the people you will be working closely with on your board journey. Consider if it is the right fit for you.
What value can you contribute?
Size and Age of the organisation
Smaller or start up organisations might require a more hands on director who might deliver on some operational tasks within the organisation such as running events or writing fundraising applications. Maybe you want to be involved in the evolution of a totally new organisation or perhaps you’d prefer an established organisation with a rich history and tradition. Depending on the age of the organisation can mean a very different experience at a board level. It can take a lot of personal insight to consider what the right organisation might be for you. Consider what experiences give you energy and think about the board to match that.
What organisation would suit you?
Core Business of the Organisation
Depending on your interests you may be best suited to different types of NFPs. There is such a range of organisations that you can volunteer for. Have you thought about service delivery organisations, business associations, fundraising, advocacy or industry peaks. You can contribute to organisations in your local area, state, national or even international organisations. There are a range of causes too – environmental, youth, elderly, disabilities, friendship, mental health, arts, sport just to name a few. There is such a depth and breadth of organisations out there – go and explore the diversity of the NFP sector! Read, network, connect and volunteer to gain insight and experience.
What type of activity interests you?
It’s time for some serious reflection now!
Don’t run into the first position that’s offered your way if it’s not the right fit. Spending some time to find the right match will be better in the long run for you and the organisation.