Should you say yes to serving on a Board of Directors?

Governance is critical to a non-profit’s success. For good governance, you need good board members.

There is a lot of responsibility in serving on a board – especially if you’re doing it right. With not enough time each day to do what you’re already doing, it’s important to do your homework even if you believe in the organization and want to help.

If you’ve been asked to serve on a board, here are four things you should determine before saying “yes.”

  • Know the expectations—time, money, travel, fundraising, meeting frequency/length, and responsibilities. You should only say yes if you fully understand what it is you are being asked to do.
  • Review the organization’s strategic plan and business plan. Find out how recent it was and if the organization is committed to following it. If the organization is currently developing a new strategic plan, this can be an exciting time to make a contribution for the future—but it will be more time-intensive.
  • Ask questions about the culture of the board. You need to know who else is serving on the board, whether there will be a formal board orientation, if the board is in agreement regarding the vision/purpose of the organization, the board’s decision-making process, and what you can bring to the table.
  • Find out if the organization covers insurance for directors and officers to protect you from any legal risks during board service.

Talk to someone in the organization who can provide insight in the areas above. If they can’t articulate what you’re to do and why, you may want to reconsider this use of your time. Believing in an organization is not enough when asked to help lead it into the future. Good governance is planned, thoughtful and focused. And anyone asking to spend your time needs to know how they want to use it.

For some resources on best practices in associations, check out Association Forum’s Professional Practice statements.