Volunteering on a board of directors is a fantastic way to share your expertise and experience with an organization that desperately needs people like you. Business professionals do well on non-profit boards because they can fill a skill set that may not already exist in the organization.
So you’ve decided that you have a bit of free time and you want to give back. You’ve decided to volunteer on a board because it will look good on your resume and you want more leadership experience.
So how do you find the right one for you?
Well, the first thing to consider is what you want out of the experience. Are you looking for more hands on operational experience or more high level governance experience? Let’s take a step back and i’ll explain the difference between the two.
Operational vs. Governance Boards
Operational boards are involved with the day to day engagement activities of the organization. This could be everything from communications, event planning and member engagement. The benefit of an operational board model is that if you like “doing” more than “planning” then you’ll definitely get an opportunity to do this. I like operational boards because you get to know your directors really well by working with them on specific projects.
Governance boards on the other hand deal primarily with policy and interact with the organization at an advisory level. If you are interested in learning how to ask good questions and make decisions, then a governance board may be a good fit for you. I’ve sat on three governance boards in the past and I’ve learned a lot about leadership and how an organization operates at a strategic level.
Both types of boards are highly valuable because they can teach you a lot about people, management and conflict resolution.
I currently have the opportunity to sit on two kinds of boards right now and I take away different experiences from both.
Four Questions to Ask Yourself
So back to the original question, “How to choose the Right Board to Volunteer On?”.
There are four important questions to ask yourself:
1) What are you hoping to get out of the experience?
2) What type of skills and experience can you bring to the table?
3) What are you interested in?
4) How much time do you have to dedicate to an organization? (Operational boards typically take up more time than governance boards)
Once you’ve answered these questions, then look within your local community for organizations that are looking for board directors. Narrow down your search to three organizations and then do some research on the history, engagement model, media attention and policies of each one. Then get in touch with the organizations you are interested in and find out what the next steps are for joining the board.
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