Make Your Best Impact as a Nonprofit Board Member
Combining your business acumen and passion for a cause can come together in a fulfilling way as a nonprofit board member. While your commitment to the cause and the communities served by the nonprofit on whose board you sit is important, so are the responsibilities incumbent on board members. Understanding these responsibilities before you join will make you ready for impact on day one.
It's important to distinguish if you are a member of the fiduciary board or the board of advisers. When on a fiduciary board, you are responsible for helping ensure financial stability and oversight of the organization by setting and monitoring an appropriate budget each year. You will also establish a multiyear strategic and financial plan that is reviewed and updated annually. And most importantly, you will help ensure that strong financial practices and controls are in place to create resiliency and that the organization is spending donor dollars and grants wisely.
In contrast, as a member of the advisory board, you are expected to contribute your experience, skills and support while not having the fiduciary responsibilities.
A rewarding part of nonprofit board membership is sharing your passion for the organization as an ambassador. This starts with understanding the official story and messaging of the organization and being prepared to deliver a targeted pitch to potential donors at networking events or as a speaker at the nonprofit’s annual gala. To help your nonprofit’s development efforts, you will want to prepare yourself to communicate the organization’s mission, impact and path for growth to people in your professional and personal circles in a way that will inspire and engage current and prospective donors and partners.
It’s also helpful to your nonprofit to draw upon your management experience to spot gaps of representation on the current board — whether in sector, skill, or background — and to use your connections to target ideal board member prospects. Maintaining an active, strong and engaged pipeline of future board members is also a special responsibility as it ensures a strong and consistent leadership that will allow the nonprofit to thrive. You can be essential in helping build the future board pipeline and developing a clear plan for succession.
Along with time and talent, it’s important to provide the nonprofit with financial support. In fact, philanthropic giving from board members is now often necessary to the organization and in driving its development efforts. A philanthropically engaged board member who makes their nonprofit a top philanthropic priority can influence other board members and the organization’s community to give generously. It's good for you to know, too, that a successful board contributes about 10% of the annual revenue raised.
Being an engaged and prepared nonprofit board member will be a rewarding experience for you while the skills you possess will be invaluable to the organization and the cause it supports.
Suzanne Battit is a senior vice president and principal at the Development Guild DDI, a national consulting firm providing executive search, fundraising counsel and campaign services to nonprofit organizations.