By Jennifer Olsen and Laura Doehle
Being asked to join a board of directors is an honor and it’s an exciting opportunity. As you prepare to contribute to your community and seek new professional development opportunities, you want to consider your options carefully.
We’ve worked together to create a list of ten questions (five in this post, and five in our previous post) in the hopes that we can help you identify and select the opportunity that’s right for you. Don’t just join a board without some careful consideration; use these questions to help you determine if your next board opportunity is right for you.
- Are you committed to the non-profit cause this board supports?
A board is like any other organization; it will change, shift and evolve during your board tenure. In fact, “the ask” and what’s required from you can change during your term. Your experience and expertise may make it necessary for you to offer insight and advice on issues you may not have anticipated. You may also be asked to contribute more financially. When these situations occur, you may find yourself questioning how committed you are to the organization. Having a sincere commitment to the mission of the organization helps during those times of transition.
- What is the board’s recruitment process?
As HR and recruiting professionals how a board recruits new members is an important question to us! If the board is small or new, how do they plan to fill empty positions or how will they fill your position when you leave? Ask the members to walk you through the process so that you have a grasp on how solid it is:
- How much time do they allow to recruit new board members?
- What does succession look like for board members and committees?
- Do they have role descriptions?
- Do they have a president, a president-elect and a past-president in place?
- What qualities do they look for in new and existing board members?
The answers to these questions will offer valuable insight in terms of your tenure and potential for responsibility on the board.
- After recruitment, what is the interview process?
Not only does a board want to have qualified candidates for open positions, they should take time and put effort into making sure they select the right people for the job.We recently witnessed a great example of how to conduct board interviews. An organization recruited 25 candidates for open board positions:
- They selected four finalists and conducted a thorough two-month interview process which included three rounds of extensive interviews and a list of competencies.
- During interviews, candidates were asked to identify the skills they had to offer, as well as the areas in which they wanted to develop.
This process not only helped the organization ensure their selections filled their needs it also helped confirm the position would be beneficial for the new member.
If the board hasn’t considered questions about recruiting and interviewing new members it can be a sign that the board is dependent on just a few people to maintain the organization’s health, both at the board level and at the management level. In those cases, you need to be prepared for more work when these plans and processes aren’t in place.
- How does the board function?
Just as if you were going to join a new company or organization, there are details about how it functions that you should seek to understand before you join.
- Find out how many committees the board has, and how many people are on each committee. Confirm what the goals are for each committee, and if they’re meeting those goals and obligations.
- Ask how often the board meets, and if they meet virtually or in person.
- Determine if the board is financially stable. If you have fiduciary responsibilities as most board members do, you’re taking on some legal and financial responsibility for this organization. Prior to doing so, confirm how the organization earns money, if it is meeting its budget and what kinds of financial and legal controls are in place. You must feel confident in signing documents around this board’s fiscal obligations.
- What is the required commitment for raising funds? As a board member you’re giving and donating time and that has value. But in our experience, you also have to be prepared to donate money. Most donors won’t appreciate the idea of a board member asking for a donation but not being willing to make a financial contribution of their own.
- How does this board tie into your personal brand?
Determining whether a board supports your personal brand is one of the most important questions to ask before you agree to join a board. When you associate yourself with a board—whether it’s high-functioning or not—people will notice. Be sure that the board operates in a way that makes you proud and which will help represent you as a trusted and valued member of your community.
You may already know the answers to some of the questions; however, talk to several board members to learn more and validate your thoughts about how they operate. By making a careful selection you will likely enjoy a positive board experience and create the types of connections which will help you and your community.