The Nonprofit Board You’d Love to Join

If we accept as given that a nonprofit has a mission that resonates with you, what makes a board one you would want to join? Likely, the principal reasons are your existing relationships to the organization and its leadership. But for organizations seeking board members, the following list of ten attractive characteristics of a nonprofit will be worth considering.

Ten Attractive Characteristics of a Nonprofit Board

  1. Healthy, reputable organization
  2. Impactful organization
  3. Mission- and values-driven organization
  4. Purpose-driven board
  5. Collegial board and friendships
  6. Diverse and inclusive board
  7. Strong leadership team
  8. Helpful and timely information shared with board
  9. Productive board meetings
  10. Educational, growth, and networking opportunities

Healthy, reputable organization

  • Financially healthy with a few months of operating reserves and projected positive net revenues (unless there’s a strategic use of net assets accrued from prior years)
  • Protected by a strong infrastructure, lawful and appropriate governing documents, well-thought out risk management policies and strategies, pertinent professional support
  • Good reputation in the field and with their key supporters; not subject to multiple employment claims or other lawsuits

Impactful organization

  • Impactful in furthering its mission and with readily available evidence of (some of) its impact
  • Impactful in advancing its values internally and externally

Mission- and values-driven organization

  • Defined and broadly communicated mission and values
  • Focus on furthering its charitable mission consistent with its values

Purpose-driven board

Collegial board and friendships

  • Conducive to interesting, engaging conversations in areas of shared passion
  • Civil, with an ability to embrace difficult discussions and new ideas

Diverse and inclusive board

  • Diverse in composition on multiple levels, including race and ethnicity
  • Inclusive and encouraging of respect, openness, growth, compassion, and grace
  • Inclusive in board representation with respect to the communities it serves

Strong leadership team

  • Effective, efficient, and ethical in its management of day-to-day operations
  • Nourishing of a healthy, supportive, and collaborative organizational culture
  • Trustworthy and able to inspire trust, internally and externally
  • Creative in looking for areas of improvement
  • Courageous in its championing of the organization and its mission to the broader community

Helpful and timely information shared with board

  • Relevant to the upcoming board meeting with financial, programmatic, governance and other information
  • Delivered one week in advance, ideally with a short summary indicating key developments since the last meeting, areas of generative discussion for the upcoming meeting, and opportunities to share some reaction in advance of the board meeting

Productive board meetings

  • Helpful in getting assurance that the organization is on track financially and programmatically
  • Structured to allow for substantive interactions with staff members
  • Focused on the most important areas in which the board can support the leadership team and the organization, including those areas that may not have been previously identified

Educational, growth, and networking opportunities

  • Valuable, personally and professionally
  • Mutually enjoyable, even beyond the context of organizational governance

Additional Resources