Are You Sure You Want To Join A Nonprofit Board?

By Gerry Czarnecki

Joining a nonprofit board is not that difficult, but before you do, be aware that being a nonprofit director carries some real challenges. Before you start the process of looking for a board to join, understand these 10 issues and how they impact your willingness to serve.

Being a director takes time. Depending on the nonprofit, it could take up great deal of your valuable time.

Remember the simple fact that being a director of a for-profit organization means you get checks; a nonprofit director writes checks.

Most nonprofits have a give-or-get goal for the directors, so you will be in the fund-giving or the fundraising business – meaning you will be asking others to contribute to your nonprofit.

You contribute your time, for which you get no tax credit, and you contribute dollars, for which you do, as long as the organization is recognized by the IRS as organization.

You really are a fiduciary, and therefore the law considers you responsible for all that goes on in the organization.

Many of your colleagues on the board will be there because they gave a great deal of money to the organization. But they will not do much in the way of active participation in governing.

Others on the board will be there because they want the prestige of being involved in the organization – more than being committed to the cause, or willing to do real work.

If you are an accountant, finance chief, lawyer, banker, etc., you can be certain you will be called upon to give substantive amounts of your professional advice and engagement.

You probably will be expected to attend more than a few fundraising events that the nonprofit uses to raise money or honor members of the community.

You will be giving of yourself to a cause, so it’s important that the cause is one to which you are committed.

Let’s be clear, I am a passionate nonprofit director and have been all my professional life, but these factors go with the territory. If you’re not comfortable with these, and if you’re not totally committed to the cause, you need to think carefully about whether this is the highest and best use of your time.

Nonprofits need dedicated directors, so if you cannot be dedicated to these conditions, then you eventually will not be fulfilled – and the nonprofit will be let down by your failure to commit.

Gerry Czarnecki is founder and chairman of the nonprofit National Leadership Institute (nationalleadershipinstitute.org), which helps boards of nonprofit organizations become strategic assets to the leadership team. His extensive background as a C-suite executive and CEO is coupled with current board leadership of corporate and nonprofit organizations. He is also chairman and CEO of the Deltennium Group. Contact him at 561.293.3726 or gmc@deltennium.com.

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