By Anna Nalean, Director of Nonprofit Relations
Originally published as a guest opinion in the Business Record.
How do I serve on a nonprofit board? How does my nonprofit find new board members? In my role at the Community Foundation, these are common questions I hear during our trainings on board service or building a nonprofit’s capacity. We are fortunate to live in a community in which the work of nonprofits is seen as vital, and where people want to volunteer their time to support causes they care about. With so many great causes and opportunities available, deciding how to get involved can be a bit overwhelming. Where do you start?
Begin by asking yourself why it is important to you to get involved at the board level. For most board members, service comes from a place of passion. Ask yourself:
- What am I interested in?
- What are my values and beliefs?
- What skills or perspectives can I bring to the organization?
There are countless areas of need and opportunities for service, but you cannot be responsible for fixing everything. Instead take the time to answer these questions and find alignment among your interests, values and beliefs and the organizations that are doing this work in the community. With board terms averaging between three and six years, passion is paramount in ensuring that you will be engaged with the mission of the organization and have sustained interest in maximizing organizational success over the course of your service.
Once you identify organizations that match your passions, begin to get involved. Organizations often have many opportunities to engage as a skilled volunteer or committee member, a natural first step before committing to a board role. Your volunteer engagement will allow you to “date the organization” and become familiar with their work. By volunteering first, you can ensure you are comfortable with the mission and are comfortable taking your engagement to the next level in the future.
As you prepare to move into board service, make sure you are asking the right questions to understand what your role and responsibility will be. You want to be sure that your expectations match those of the organization. Board members are ambassadors for the organization, they are donors that support the mission financially, and they open doors to possible opportunities. Before you step into this important leadership role for an organization you care about, make sure that you are comfortable and energized by the resources that will be required of you through service.
Our communities’ nonprofits are eager for your involvement. We are fortunate to live in a city and state where the nonprofit sector is not icing on the cake but rather a key ingredient in the mix. To maintain and enhance the quality of life we enjoy today, we need your leadership. If you are interested in opportunities to serve, visit LeadershipLink to find information on nonprofits seeking leaders and to submit your resume for consideration for service. By lending your leadership to the nonprofits of our community, you are investing in the success of our region and are ensuring that we continue to be better together.