Friday, May 8, 2009

To Serve or Not To Serve

Recently I was asked to join the board of directors for a  non-profit organization. My proposed board role would be that of co-chair as well as PR chair. Because I have not yet made my decision as to whether or not I will join this board, they will remain nameless.  

Before committing to a board  quite a few things need to be considered.  As I contemplate my decision I'm researching to try and find out as much about the organization as I can.  I thought it might be helpful to pass along some of the thoughts and questions that have entered my mind.
  1. What is the non-profit about, who is the staff and current board?  
  2. Is the non-profit, staff and board adhering to legal standards and good ethics?
  3. Does the organization have a national affiliation?  If so, what are the standards and procedures?  Are there any compliance issues? Conflicts of interest?
  4. What are the brand standards?
  5. What is the public saying about this organization?
  6. Have they ever had a PR crisis situation? If so, how was it handled, what type of damage did it do?
  7. What is the organization's budget? Does the board review and approve budget?
  8. What is the allocation?  expenses vs. program costs?
  9. What are the fundraising goals?
  10. What role does the board play in fundraising?
  11. Does the organization have a strategic plan?
  12. How many board members are there and how many do they intend to obtain?
  13. Are there term limits?  If so, how long?
  14. Can you take a leave of absence?
  15. Can a board member be impeached?
  16. Do all board members have voting rights?
  17. Do you have board bylaws?
  18. Are board members required to make a financial contribution?
  19. Are there any board committees?
  20. Is there a plan for board recruitment, orientation, development?
  21. How often are board meetings?
As you can see, I have many questions.  But joining a board is not something to take lightly.  I want to make sure I am aligning myself with an organization I can believe in and one I can help. After all, this decision can affect my time, resources, talents, money, and reputation.  

I'm still not 100% sure of what I'm going to do.  Should I decide yes, then you'll be one of the first to know.


Brad Griffith said...

I've heard that some non-profits expect donations from their board members. Is that just a rumor, or might that be accurate?

That would be a big consideration from me--does the organization expect just my time, or do they want time and money?!

columbus imPRessions said...

That is definitely a good question to ask! The answer will vary from nonprofit to nonprofit.

In this case, this board just asks for time, talent and resources. But in other cases they require an annual financial gift.

I worked for an organization that required 100% board and staff participation because it would show the public that even the staff and board supported the mission setting an example when making an ask.

Not too keen on that one since most non-profit staff are not paid very well and dedicate quite a bit of time to the cause, and most board are offering talent and resources above and beyond.

Anonymous said...

I would think that most non-profits would want or require their board members to donate. I mean come on, they have people on staff to do communications, marketing, development, etc. They don't want you to interfere. Of course they want your money and your connections. That's the whole point of a board.

columbus imPRessions said...

There are some non-profits with communications, marketing, development staff but most non-profits (especially in this economy) cannot afford those full-time positions. Or they opt not to have those positions so more money could go into their program instead of operating costs.

Board members should have the the expertise needed to assist and grow the non-profit. Time, talent and connections in that case is very valuable.

Neither answer is right or wrong. It just depends on the non-profit. I have seen some that require board (and staff) to donate money and I have seen many others who look to the board for time, talent and connections only.