Nonprofits are vital to communities, and are dependent on volunteers and board members to fulfill the organization’s mission. It is a great honor to be asked to join a nonprofit board of directors. Your personal interest or passion in the cause, coupled by your specific skills, will help drive the nonprofits mission. Before you make the leap, be sure you understand what you can expect and what to ask.

Why join a board?

  • Expand your network. Joining a board allows you to make new, meaningful connections with others involved with the organization.
  • Learn new skills and practice wearing different leadership hats. A strong board has a broad array of skills, experiences, backgrounds, and perspectives, which allows you the opportunity to collaborate with and learn from a network of specialists. This is a rewarding opportunity to bring not only your invaluable expertise, but also your curiosity to learn and expand your own skillset.
  • Create positive change in your community. Nonprofit boards are critical in supporting and guiding important community work. Joining a board allows you to give back to your community in a way that leverages your skillset while also aligning with your beliefs and passions.

What to ask before joining:

  • How often does the board meet and where? Before committing to joining a board, make sure that you’ll be able to meet the time expectations. Ask how often the board meets, and whether these meetings are in-person or virtual. Will you be able to join the meetings, or do they conflict with your current obligations? Be honest with yourself and ensure that you have sufficient time to devote before agreeing to join.
  • Does the board have a fundraising requirement? Clarify what the board’s expectations are for personal giving and whether they have a fundraising requirement. Take the time to decide if the expected amount fits within your current financial situation.
  • Does the board have an insurance policy in place? Having Directors & Officers (D&O) Insurance and Worker’s Compensation will help protect board directors in the case of any future litigation. Ensure that the board has taken the steps to protect its directors against any unanticipated liabilities.
  • What are the board roles? Does the board have clear roles defined within their organization? Have a conversation about the expectations of individual roles and the term lengths and limits. See if you’re able to review important documents such as the bylaws and organizational chart to better gain a sense of how you’d fit into the board structure.
  • What is the financial health of the organization? Besides the bylaws and organizational chart, also review the nonprofit organization’s budget and financial reports. This will help you determine how much of the resources are going to meet the organization’s guiding mission.

Are you ready to get started? Reach out to a local nonprofit today to see what board opportunities are available that align with your core values and passions—Mainers can also visit the Maine Association of Nonprofits’ website for a list of opened board positions in the region. If you’re unable to fully commit to board service, ask the organization if there are other ways to get involved.

We see first-hand the impact board members can have on their organizations through the many nominations we receive for our Leaders & Luminaries Awards, which shines a light on board members who demonstrate innovative thinking and outstanding board governance. To date, we’ve celebrated over 58 board members with $220,000 in grants for their respective nonprofits.

If you’re looking for real world inspiration of board members having a positive impact, meet our 2022 Leaders and Luminaries!

Renée Smyth is the Chief Experience & Marketing Officer at Camden National Bank.