I firmly believe that it is important to give back to the communities we live in and, personally, it has been life changing. One way to give back is by serving on a board of directors for both large and small nonprofits.
Serving on a board is an incredible opportunity to share one’s expertise and it’s very rewarding to help advance the mission of nonprofits. Board volunteer experience empowers one to stay connected to the community and be involved in the causes you care deeply about. Most importantly, you can make a real and lasting difference in the lives and well-being of others!
The first board I served on was the Valley Athletic Association in my hometown, which promoted youth participation in athletics. It was exciting to be part of an organization that increased the number of kids that were able to play on boys and/or girls’ sports teams. Since then, I have been involved with seven other boards and I am currently the board chair for the Colorado Nonprofit Association and a board member of RAFT (Resource Area for Teaching).
It doesn’t matter what cause inspires you to act. There are several steps you can take to find a nonprofit you are passionate about. Perhaps you or a family member or someone you care about has received assistance from a nonprofit and you want to give back. You can ask family, friends and coworkers about the causes they believe in and work with. Another avenue is to explore board positions online (organizations like Metro Volunteers often post board positions for nonprofits online). Last but by no means least, spend time researching the mission and accomplishments of selected organizations and follow them on social media.
Once you find an organization that interests you and might be a good fit for your talents, volunteer there and see for yourself. This provides you an excellent opportunity to speak with other volunteers, employees and clients of the nonprofit. Do they enjoy themselves? Do they make a difference? Are my particular skills needed? If your interest is piqued, request a one-on-one meeting with the nonprofit’s executive director or board president. During this meeting, ask them about the nonprofits goals/outcomes, critical issues, financial stability and how you could best serve the organization. Find out the size of the board; only you know if you would be more comfortable in a smaller or larger board.
Understand Your Commitment
Before making a commitment to serve on a board, it is important to review the nonprofit’s bylaws. Bylaws outline how a board functions, specify the roles and duties of board officers, identify board committees (if any) and responsibilities, determine board meeting times and many other important processes.
Next, it’s important to understand your legal duties as a board member. Colorado law requires board members to follow various regulations and, generally, act in good faith. Principles & Practices for Nonprofit Excellence in Colorado (published by the Colorado Nonprofit Association) outlines various topics including board governance, advocacy and fund development. This is an outstanding tool for new and existing board members alike to use as a guide for moving an organization’s vision forward, while ensuring compliance with state regulations and laws.
Finally, serving on a nonprofit board typically requires you to make some form of minimum time and financial commitment to the organization. Make sure you can commit the necessary time for board meetings, committee meetings and volunteer requirements. Feel good about your ability to make a meaningful financial contribution to the nonprofit and, perhaps, comfortable asking others to do so as well.
The bottom line is that nonprofits in our community need passionate and caring people to volunteer and serve on its board of directors! Explore your personal passions, understand your obligations and take an active role in building our community. It might just change your life and, more importantly, someone else’s.