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Six tips for new nonprofit board members

Joining a nonprofit board of directors can be an exhilarating and life-changing experience. Not only do you get to work with others who hold a similar passion to making the world a better place through the mission of the organization, you can support the mission in many ways.

Here are six action items to consider when joining a nonprofit board of directors:

First, since you are reading this on social media, add this volunteer experience to your LinkedIn profile. Let your professional network know that you are on the board of the nonprofit.

Next, send a note to the ED/CEO and ask them to coffee or lunch. You have probably already met them, and this is your opportunity to get to know them a little better and to see where they see you best fitting.

Next, do the same with their head of fundraising. In some cases, this may be the same person! Nonetheless, get to know them as well, and find out how best you can assist with fundraising for the nonprofit. This meeting will be welcomed by the head of fundraising, and they will most assuredly have some action items for you.

Now connect with the CFO or whoever handles the finances and budget. If you don’t already have a copy of the current budget (by this I mean the full budget, not a limited version of one), ask for one. Then ask if you can attend the next finance committee meeting. The idea here is to get to know the budget, why this is that and that is this, and have a better understanding of the organization. The main thing is to ask questions around any uncertainties. You will do the nonprofit a huge service if you fully understand the budget.

Make a commitment to attend 100% of the board meetings. These are typically scheduled for the year, and whether you can be there in person or join via phone or Zoom, your presence as a board member is critical, even if it doesn’t feel like it. Keep in mind that many foundations expect a certain percentage of board members attending board meetings, and your organization could miss out on grants if that percentage is not high enough. Board meeting attendance is also just part of being a board member, and whether you can make meetings or not would be part of deciding whether you should join the board.

Lastly, create some type of “elevator speech” about the nonprofit which includes why you are on the board. This part is important when sharing with friends and colleagues as your passion with purpose for the mission of the organization will affect how or if they want to support the cause. Of all the nonprofit boards you could have joined, why this one? Your first two meetings with staff from above can be helpful in creating this language.

Thank you for volunteering to join your board of directors. Have fun, make good trouble, and I wish you and them the very best.

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