At various stages in their lives, a number of community minded citizens feel that they have something to offer their community as a volunteer. They may be approached by a friend or a neighbour, they make seek out volunteer opportunities, or they may be offered the opportunity to volunteer through a colleague.
This is often how individuals are recruited to serve on a board of directors of not-for-profit organizations. They are usually told “It will only take a few hours a month of your time.”
Individuals who are contemplating offering their services to serve on boards of directors should ask a number of questions before making any commitment including but not limited to:
- What do I know about Governance in the not-for-profit sector?
- What skills and expertise does this agency require in its governance structure?
- Can I contribute any of these skills or required expertise? What would my value added be?
- Why does this type of volunteering appeal to me?
- Who else is on the board? How were they recruited?
- What do I know about the agency’s history, its community reputation?
The demands and expectations of not-for-profit boards of directors have changed dramatically over the last 10 years. It is not good enough to simply want to offer a few hours of one’s time by being a member of a board; this commitment goes hand in hand with many serious expectations.
A former board member once said to me that the reason she became involved with a particular community agency was to offer some of her time to those in need – maybe to assist in fund raising. The agency immediately offered her a position on the board of directors. What she did not know was that the agency was in serious trouble – financial and otherwise. She was not prepared for the challenges she faced. She braved it out for two years and finally left the board not having contributed what she felt the agency needed. She learned a very important lesson but felt frustrated and vulnerable in the end.