At this point, you’ve decided which mission area to focus on and which type of organization best suits your interests, availability, and personal goals. The next step is to begin identifying board service opportunities.
Find an opportunity
In addition to many local board-matching programs, these are three nationwide sites where you can search for organizations that are actively searching for board members:
In addition, several other organizations post open board positions or have matching programs available by region.
Another option is to indicate your interest in serving on a nonprofit board on LinkedIn in the Volunteer Experience & Causes section of your profile, which will make it easier for organizations seeking board members to find you!
Don’t wait to be asked
If your search indicates that a potential organization in which you are interested does not have any current board openings, don’t be afraid to reach out to the organization to express your interest. The most effective board members are individuals who are truly passionate about what an organization does; are willing to commit time, resources, and energy to strengthen and sustain it; and embrace board service as a serious commitment. Self-identifying your commitment to an organization is a first step in the right direction.
There is power in knowing what you want and going after it. However, it is important to always learn as much as you can about the organizations before you express your interest in serving on the board.
Learn more about the organization
Once you have found open positions in the mission area and type of organizations that interest you, you will need to learn more about the organizations before expressing your interest.
An informed candidate has a much better chance of being invited to join a board than an uninformed candidate. Here are some easy ways to learn more about the organizations on your list:
- Study the organization’s website and read its annual report.
- Visit Guidestar.org to get a broad picture of the organization, its mission, leaders, and overall financial health. Read the organization’s most recent Form 990 and audited financial statements, and watch out for some of these important considerations:
- Did the organization run a deficit in the most recent year? If the organization is operating at a deficit, be sure you understand why and how it is addressing the deficit moving forward. A deficit without a specific plan for how it will be avoided in the future could indicate a shaky financial situation.
- Does the organization have at least five or more independent board members? If the organization does not have at least a core group of independent board members, it may not have strong governance practices in place. If there are any non-independent board members, be sure to follow up with the organization to understand who they are and the nature of their relationships to the organization.
- Do an internet search on the organization to read any recent news coverage that might flag exciting opportunities or potential concerns.
In addition, be aware of any potential conflicts of interest between your personal and professional concerns and the interests of the organization. There will always be some conflicts, but if your interests and the interests of the organization are likely to conflict on a frequent basis, then serving on the board will not be a good fit for you or for the organization. For more information about conflicts of interest, check out our free FAQ for Legal and Compliance Issues.
Once you find a board service opportunity that appeals to your interests, availability, and personal goals, and you’ve done your research to find out what the organization does and how well it does it, you’re ready to begin the recruitment process.
For more information about serving on a board, check out these additional resources: