You Want to Join a Nonprofit Board … But How Do You Get There?

By Gerry Czarnecki

It is time to find out how to get on a board. It turns out, most nonprofits are anxious to find directors, so you may find the process quite simple. Or it could be a real challenge, depending on what you are willing to do to get there.

Here are some things that can set the wheels in motion to become a board member. Many of these may sound either over the top or they may seem simple, depending on who you are and what you can actually commit to.

First, decide which nonprofits have a cause you are passionate about. My advice: Never join a nonprofit board that has a mission and a vision that falls short of your interests.

The easiest—and, for many, the least likely—way to get on a board is to make an unrestricted donation equal to the annual operating budget of the entity. With that gift, they will have a seat for you, if you want it. If you think I’m being cynical and sarcastic, I’m not—it is quite realistic to expect that a major donor could be a director almost entirely because of the magnitude of the contribution.

A more realistic series of actions might start with being a volunteer for the organization.

Another option is to start making an annual membership contribution and then buying into and attending the nonprofit’s fundraisers.

Network at events he nonprofit is co-hosting, to meet the members of the board and the leadership team. Networking will gain you access to boards, no matter what type.

Use the power of your day job to create a contribution pattern from your company. The reason CEOs often sit on nonprofit boards is to direct contributions or increase related marketing dollars to the nonprofits for which they have a commitment. If you have a senior leadership position, you will be a highly desirable candidate.

Reach out to the executive director or president and ask how you might help the cause.

Connect with the chair of the board and/or the chair of the governance committee. And, if you know any board members, reach out to them and express your interest.

Once you do all of these steps, I predict you will become a candidate for a nonprofit board seat quickly.

Once you start this process, you are probably going to get on the prospect list for many boards. Hence, it is important that you commit only to groups that you have time for and have the passion to commit to.

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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