By Amber Alarid, JVA Consulting
As you work to gain experience in the nonprofit sector, there are many roads you can take. Internships, volunteer positions and entry level positions are wonderful learning opportunities, but if you are still looking for a level of responsibility not found in other positions a board position might be right for you.
First step, find an organization or a cause you are truly engaged in. Conduct research on what the organization or organizations do, their history and their mission. Next, you’ll want to find out if there are vacant board positions, either by exploring their website or simply making a call for more information. Each organization will have a slightly different process for bringing new board members on, so be sure to get more information on what will be required of you in the application process.
One thing to have in mind when you apply is how your particular skill set can help that organization achieve its goals. Don’t just send a cover letter to the appropriate people asking to join their board, prepare all necessary documents to show how your background fits the vacant position, or a position you would like to see them create or adapt for you. If the vacancy description does not fit your interests and expertise, be prepared to find another board or speak with the organization about what steps you would need to take to prepare for that role.
Before officially accepting the role, be sure to clarify your goals and the board’s expectations one more time. You don’t want to get in over your head after having already made the commitment to serve a full term (length of terms is another thing to consider before accepting).
Once you have officially joined a board, make it a priority to attend all meetings, ask all questions that assist you in fulfilling your role and be at every event you can. It is important to take advantage of all the learning opportunities the board offers and of course you want to make a good impression on your fellow board members.
Our website offers suggestions of books to read if you are unfamiliar with specific aspects of board duties. JVA also offers a Board Roles and Responsibilities training that can prepare you for your legal responsibilities as a board member.