Your seat at the table: The responsibilities of board membership
Board membership can be a great opportunity for community involvement, but this role could bring along with it more commitments than one might expect.
Perhaps you’re a longtime supporter of a favored community organization and are interested in taking your involvement to the next level by joining its board of directors. Or maybe you’ve already been approached to join but aren’t sure what will be expected of you in terms of time, money and other commitments. As with many great opportunities, serving on a board means taking on some responsibility too. Here’s what to think about when getting started.
Most boards hold seven meetings a year, at about two to four hours each, according to BoardSource. On average, members serve two terms of three years each, and in general the position is unpaid.
If you have a direct financial relationship to the nonprofit (such as being its landlord or legal counsel), serving can pose a conflict-of-interest risk. Board members must put the interests of the organization before their own.
Your financial support
According to BoardSource, it’s recommended for boards to set a range or a minimum amount for each member to give, often generously. Board members may also be expected to provide names of potential donors and to meet with them to procure donations.
Responsibilities can include fundraising, advocacy, community-building and outreach. Will your skill set help the institution raise funds or operate more efficiently?
Is it a fit?
Serving on a board should be a positive experience. Make sure your values align with those of the organization, as well as those of existing board members.
You’ll officially be a steward of the organization’s resources and assets. If a nonprofit doesn’t pay enough in payroll taxes for its employees, for example, the IRS can hold the board negligent. To guard against this risk, ask about the group’s liability insurance and possibly secure your own as well.
Serving on a board comes with benefits. You can gain greater leverage to support a mission you care about, network with professionals and like-minded individuals and establish yourself as a leader in your community or field.
No matter how you choose to give, make sure the time, financial commitment and benefits are a match for your current bandwidth.
Serving on a board can be a great way to contribute to your favorite cause – but make sure the time and investment work for you. Here are some ideas to get started.
- Research organizations you believe in or already donate to. Is there an opportunity to get more involved?
- Tap into your advisor as a sounding board. As members of the community, they might have some good insight to share.
- Take a look at the amount of time you might have to share with an organization. Would it be better to donate in some other way?
Sources: boardnetUSA.com; forbes.com; boardeffect.com; thebalance.com; BoardSource, “Leading with Intent”