Charting Your Path to Nonprofit Board Service (from #YNPNdc11)

Jun 3, 2011 by

Another compilation post from my live tweets at the YNPNdc Annual Conference! We’re having a happy hour tonight at Bar Louie in Chinatown @6pm – join us!

The session: Charting Your Path to Nonprofit Board Service


  • Moderator: Brian Flahaven, Director of Government Relations, CASE
  • Panel:
    • Emily Gibbs-Davis, Manager, Corporate and Agency Services, Volunteer Fairfax
    • Patric Sanders, Board Leadership Program Coordinator, Greater DC Cares
    • Alexis Terry, Director, Diversity and Inclusion, ASAE

Why are you in this session?

  • Want to learn how to get on a board
  • How to be effective board member
  • Find the right board

How did you find a board to join?

  • “Legacy” seats – the seat came with a staff position (person was expected to sit on the board)
  • Pursued a board seat actively – searched online, asked friends, etc.
  • Invited directly to participate by an existing board member of another organization

Roles of the board

  • Provide strategic vision and direction
  • Ensure necessary resources are available for the organization – monetary and staffing resources
  • Provide oversight on budget and finances

Surprising fact! Out of 1.5 mill nonprofits, only 2% of board members are under 30 even though 75% serve that demograhic

What can young people bring to a board?

  • Passion for the mission
  • A fresh perspective on old/existing issues
  • Patience with existing board members who have been dealing with problems for a long time

How can you find board opportunities?

  • Training programs like the one provided by Greater DC Cares
  • Volunteer in other ways with organizations to learn more
  • Network with others and ask then for board contacts

Before you decide to join a board

  • Look at your calendar to see what you have time to actually do – being on a board takes time (and usually money)
  • Do your research – what kind of board is it? Who is already on the board? What is the give/get requirement?
  • Ask for a job description of the board role as well as for the bylaws – review it all!

How to be an effective board member

  • Show fellow board members respect in the way they want to see (not the way you’d like to see it)
  • Attend social events or related board events with your fellow board members – you will miss out on key conversations

Why do panelists like board service?

  • More responsibilities that their jobs require
  • New experiences & challenges
  • Cross-sector networking
  • Provides a new perspective on your day job
  • Learn what goes into difficult board decisions
  • Professional development

Questions and answers

  • How do you manage a sticky or even unethical board situation?
    • A: Apply problem solving skills
    • Assume good intentions but not good governance
    • Focus on bylaws or process (especially when board terms expire) to get around people who are difficult
  • What are the legal & financial requirements of board members?
    • A: Duty of care, loyalty and obedience
    • Have to be up front with conflicts of interest
    • Have contract liability
    • Have to show up & be engaged
    • You are responsible to other board members – you’re a team!

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