Written by Kristen Merrifield, CEO of the Alliance of Arizona Nonprofits

Why should you volunteer to serve on a nonprofit board?  There may be reasons that resonate with you, such as to build your network, support a cause you care about or even because you were “voluntold” to do so by your company. While these factors may have brought you to the boardroom, they are only the beginnings of what your nonprofit board service can and should look like.

The Alliance of Arizona Nonprofits believes that serving as a board member, committee member, volunteer or intern at a nonprofit organization is a great way to show your support for the local community and the causes most important to you and your company.

Boardeffect.com describes board service as “an opportunity to learn more about an important cause, the people it affects, and the businesses and people in your community who support it. Nonprofit board service also offers the opportunity to form deeper connections with your community as you serve as a dedicated leader.”

Wealth Magazine equated board service to “being a mission ambassador” by continually reflecting on the organization’s mission and ensuring that its activities, programs and purposes continue to positively impact the communities and constituents it serves. “It is the board’s responsibility to translate the mission into goals and strategies that can be measured and achieved.”

What does it take to be a great board member?  According to GreatBoards.org, the five essential qualities of an effective board member are being:

  • Dedicated and committed.
  • Able to lead and influence others.
  • Straightforward and impartial.
  • Knowledgeable and an insatiable learner, and
  • Valuing discretion and confidentiality.

Here are five other points to consider:

  •  Commit without overcommitting. Think about where you are in your personal, professional, or business life and determine how much time you have to give.
  • Consider a board committee first. If you don’t have the time, or aren’t sure about serving on a board, start with a committee assignment at a nonprofit you align with and let that experience guide your future commitment.
  • Know when to govern, and when to manage. Serving on a mature nonprofit board with a CEO and staff is going to look and feel different than an all-volunteer organization. Are you more interested in setting policy and governing or rolling up your sleeves and doing the work?
  • Don’t obsess on a single issue. Be active and engaged in the conversations, but know when to pull back or move ahead.
  • Understand the nonprofit’s needs and how you can help meet them. According to Forbes.com, “The COVID-19 pandemic has made today’s environment for non-for-profit governing boards increasingly difficult. Responding to sharp changes in consumer demand, workforce realities and challenging technology investments create opportunities for experienced professionals to step up and contribute.”

And, remember to think about how to be a great board member without annoying the heck out of the nonprofit CEO. Whatever do you mean, Kristen? Join me on January 12 for the Professional Women’s Alliance when I’ll take you through a real-world exploration of the good, the bad and the great of board service and how being a board member can alter your mindset, enhance your career, and change your community.






Posted by Annelise Patterson