12 Considerations Before You Join that Nonprofit Board …

Are you interested in joining a nonprofit board of directors? Serving as a board member of a nonprofit can be tremendously rewarding and valuable, both to the organization and to you. But there are some things to consider before you join.

About You

It’s important to be honest and introspective in carefully considering the following:

  1. Do you know and understand the legal responsibilities and expectations of a board member?
  2. Is your primary motivation for serving as a board member to contribute to the advancement of the nonprofit’s mission?
  3. Do you have the will and the time to meet the requirements, responsibilities, and legal duties associated with serving as a board member?
  4. Will you happily devote the personal resources (time, energy, money) necessary to serve as a good board member?
  5. Are you good at working with others and making decisions collaboratively in a productive way even if the group’s decision is not consistent with your personal decision?
  6. Are you strong enough to use your independent judgment and express your point of view, particularly if others on the board are falling short on their decision-making diligence and oversight?

About the Nonprofit

You’ll need to do your homework and be diligent in obtaining information from the nonprofit and other sources to allow you to carefully consider the following:

  1. Are the nonprofit’s mission, vision, and values (including with respect to diversity, equity, and inclusion – see, for example, Activating race equity problem-solving on nonprofit boards) compatible with your priorities?
  2. Do the nonprofit’s reputation and organizational culture meet your expectations?
  3. Do the nonprofit’s filings and documents (Forms 990, articles, bylaws, policies, minutes, financial statements/audits) reflect appropriate governance, compliance, and financial health?
  4. Do the board’s composition and executive leadership provide you with confidence that the nonprofit is being well-governed and well-managed, moving in the right direction in areas you consider priorities?
  5. Is the nonprofit dealing with or imminently confronting some difficult issues that will require extra effort, intelligence, and tact from the board (e.g., financial challenges, leadership transition, litigation, dissatisfied employees, equity and inclusion efforts) and are you prepared for that?
  6. Does the nonprofit have other requirements of a board member (including a contribution requirement) and protections for their board members (including Directors & Officers Insurance) that are agreeable to you?

Additional Resources

Key Questions to Ask Before Joining a Nonprofit Board (BoardSource)

The Nonprofit Board You’d Love to Join