Get to know the responsibilities of joining a board.
Perhaps you’re a long-time 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.
Getting on Board
These factors and expectations are worth considering before you make a decision. How much of each are you willing and able to give?
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 – only 2% of the nonprofits surveyed offer an honorarium or salary for service.
Conflicts of interest can get in the way of becoming a board member. For example, if you have a direct financial relationship to the nonprofit (such as being its landlord or legal counsel), serving can pose a risk. Each board member must put the interests of the organization before their own when acting on behalf of the board.
Your Financial Support
In a 2017 BoardSource survey, nearly 59% of nonprofits required a personal contribution. In addition, many board members were asked to provide names of potential donors and to meet with prospective donors face to face.
Responsibilities can include fundraising, advocacy, community-building and outreach. Can your skillset help the institution raise funds or operate more efficiently? For example, if you run a successful marketing firm, the group might look to you to help lead marketing and public relations efforts.
Is It a Fit?
Serving on a board should be a positive experience – so make sure your values align with those of the organization, as well as those of existing board members.
You will 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 its benefits, too:
- Gain greater leverage to support a mission you care about
- Network with professionals and like-minded individuals
- Establish yourself as a leader in your community or field
Many Ways to Give
Whether board membership is the right choice for you, there are many ways to give back and get involved. As you weigh the benefits and considerations, your financial advisor is available to act as a sounding board – particularly for evaluating any financial implications that joining a board could have.