Are You Ready to Be a Nonprofit Board Member?

What It Takes May Surprise You

Nonprofit Board Members
Want to be on a nonprofit board? Be willing to help fundraise, and you'll be claimed in a nano second. Sam Edwards/OJO Images/Getty Images

There are many reasons why becoming a board member for a nonprofit could be a happy thing for you, personally and professionally.

In fact, don’t feel selfish if you’re as interested in your own welfare as that of your potential cause. Board membership is a form of volunteering that pays off in several ways.

A recent survey showed that people become board members for these reasons:

  1. Personal Fulfillment (50% of respondents cited this reason for board service)
  1. Acquisition of New Skills (20% cited this reason for serving on a board)
  2. Develop Leadership Skills (15% cited this)
  3. Network/Meet New People (13%)

But are you qualified? 

It’s a myth that you have to be rich to be on a board.  While nonprofits do need people who can give money to the cause, the amount you give is far less important than a desire to really engage and being willing to help fundraise.  And if you have some experience already with fundraising or have educated yourself about it, that’s really special.

That’s the conclusion from Top Skills for Nonprofit Boards, a survey by Software Advice (2014).

"There's definitely no shortage of people who are willing to give a significant amount of their time to serve on a nonprofit board to support a cause they care about," says Janna Finch, market researcher at Software Advice, a consultancy for nonprofit software. "But desire alone won't ensure someone is a good fit for the role. We surveyed people with board experience to find out what technical and personal skills people should possess to be considered a good match. We found that an understanding of their expected level of involvement as a member (50 percent) and some fundraising experience (25 percent) go a long way."

Why is some experience with fundraising so important?

The biggest frustration for nonprofits is a board that doesn’t understand how important fundraising is, won’t accept its role in fundraising, or thinks it has no responsibility for fundraising. What nonprofits need are board members who are willing to participate and even lead fundraising efforts.

If you have professional fundraising experience that would be super, but volunteer experience with fundraising will do just as well.

Have you helped your daughter sell Girl Scout cookies or were you a PTA leader raising funds for school activities? Do you participate in your company’s social good campaigns? Were you moved to raise money through your church to fund a global poverty program? Do you participate in charity runs and raise money from friends and family along the way?

Then you might have just what a board needs: the willingness to ask for money.

Do you need to be a Twitter or Facebook expert?

Although nonprofits do need board members with technical expertise, you might be surprised that the bar is actually pretty low.  If you have basic know-how of email and Excel, you’re good to go. With those skills, you’ll be able to understand any statistics that come along and be able to participate online when needed. Nonprofits are not chasing Facebook whizzes or people with high Klout scores.

How do you figure out which nonprofit board is best for you?

The Software Advice survey found that the best fit between potential board member and nonprofit is made when the board member asks about these things:

  1. Expected Involvement (50% of respondents advised this)
  2. Current Board Makeup – Who Is On It – How Diverse Is It? (14%)
  3. Personal Giving Requirements (14%)
  4. Subcommittees Available (15%)
  5. Nonprofit’s Financial Standing (7%)

So, if you’re ready to dig in, get involved, and help raise money, you may be a good catch for any nonprofit board.

Want to learn more about serving on a board? Check out 5 Questions to Ask before You Serve on a Nonprofit Board.

Find out more about the Software Advice Survey cited in this article with the SlideShare showing the main points or the full study at the Software Advice website.