How to Join a Board of Directors

Published: Sep 28, 2023

I’ve been a board member of a local non-profit for several years now.

My organization provides certified teaching staff, supplies, and facilities for children with dyslexia to get extra learning assistance outside of their school programs, all at no cost to parents. Being a board member of this organization has been a rewarding way to use my skills and business experience to give back to my community.

However, I’ll admit—joining a board of directors isn’t always easy. It requires hard work, dedication, and a willingness to learn. But if you’re up for the challenge, it can be an incredibly rewarding experience.

Here are a few tips on how to join a board of directors:

Know the difference between corporate and non-profit boards.

There are several key differences between corporate and non-profit boards.

Corporate board positions are highly sought after because members are typically compensated for the position either through a salary, profit distributions, or both. Corporate boards drive the strategic direction and oversight of companies. Because of this, open positions are competitive and board members are chosen to fill specific strategic roles in the experience and skill set of the board as a whole.

Non-profit boards, as the name suggests, do not operate for profit and board members are not usually compensated for their work. Rather, board members operate on a volunteer basis, and are often even expected to help raise money for the organization or donate money personally to join the board. This concept may occasionally be referred to as “Give, Get, or Get Out”.

Although these tips apply to both types of boards, for the purposes of this article I’ll be mainly referring to non-profit boards.

Here are some key tips to help you find a good fit:

Start by networking.

One of the best ways to find board opportunities is through your network. Talk to your friends, family, and colleagues to see if they know of any boards that are looking for new members. You can also attend industry events and conferences to meet potential board members and recruiters. When you talk to people, make it known that you are seeking a board position and what your goals are.

Do your research.

Once you’ve identified a few boards that you’re interested in, take some time to learn more about them. What is the organization’s mission? What are the board’s responsibilities? What kind of skills and experience are they looking for in new members?

It is not advisable to join a board just for the title. If you don’t have a complementary skill set or lack passion for the cause, you will not be an effective board member and could even do more harm than good. Finding the right fit is a critical step here.

Bonus tip: Be creative in your search. In addition to traditional networking and job boards, there are a number of other ways to find board opportunities. For example, you can search online databases like BoardStrong and OnBoard. You can also connect with recruiters who specialize in board placements. And don’t be afraid to reach out directly to organizations that you’re interested in serving on.

Prepare your pitch.

When you’re ready to start applying for board positions, be prepared to pitch yourself. Write a brief bio that highlights your skills and experience, and explain why you’re interested in serving on the organization’s board. You may also want to write a cover letter that addresses the specific skills and experience that the board is looking for. This will help you stand out as a solid candidate.

Be patient and persistent.

It may take some time to find the right board position for you. Don’t get discouraged if you don’t get the first few positions you apply for. Keep networking, doing your research, and preparing your pitch, and eventually you’ll find the perfect fit.

Here are a few additional tips to help you stand out from the competition:

Following these tips can certainly improve your chances of success.

Oh, and one last thing: don’t forget to have fun! Serving on a board of directors should be an enjoyable experience. If you’re not passionate about the organization and its mission, it’s going to be difficult to stay motivated. So choose a board you’re excited about, roll up your sleeves, and get to work making a difference.

With a little effort and creativity, you can find the perfect board opportunity for you. Good luck!

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