As you move forward in your career, you may want to contribute more than money to nonprofit organizations that support causes you care about. Serving on a nonprofit board is a worthwhile way to increase the impact of a nonprofit and help shape its future. Board experience will also enhance your career. You will build your network and gain insight into managing with limited resources. But searching for a board position can seem mysterious or even daunting. Here’s how to get started.
Determine your area of focus.Think about the social issues and public needs that most interest you. You will be an ambassador for the organization and will communicate its mission to others, so it is important that you feel strongly about the organization’s intended impact. For example, if you are interested in the environment, think about the type of change you want to make. Are you dedicated to improving local resources, such as a state park? Or do you want to contribute to global conservation efforts?
Attend volunteer events.Sign up for nonprofits’ communications and attend a few volunteer or fundraising events to help determine if you are a good fit for the organization. These events will give you a sense of the organization’s priorities and constituencies. Explore how your values align with those of others affiliated with the organization, and make connections that may aid in contacting the organization.
With board experience, you will build your network and gain insight into managing with limited resources.
Reach out to the organization.If you do not have a contact on the board, contact the executive director or director of development to express your interest. Most nonprofits are continually looking for new board members and would welcome such an inquiry. Once you have established a connection, ask questions to determine if you are a good fit: How is the board structured? How often does it meet? What percentage of board members regularly attend board meetings? Is there a financial commitment for board members, and how much is it? What are the goals of the organization?
Use the Tamer Center for Social Enterprise as a resource.At any point in the process, seek guidance and support from the Tamer Center, which has strong affiliations with nonprofits across sectors. If you hope to join a nonprofit board, contact us to share your interests. Or if you are on a board and looking for new board members, we can help spread the word to fellow alumni.
Gwen Shufro ’06 is the assistant director of the Tamer Center for Social Enterprise and runs the Nonprofit Board Leadership Program.