Join a non-profit board
It’s been a long time coming… On my 2011 Unboring List, “Join a non-profit board” was made a priority. I spoke to many but wanted to make the right choice - not jump in because I had a list item to attend to.
Courageous Sailing is a FANTASTIC organization and one that I am honored and humbled to be a part of. It’s a Boston treasure and I will work diligently to help to continuously reach the mission of transforming lives through sailing. (Which is what sailing has done for me.)
Courageous is multi-faceted in its activities. From weekly races for adults (summer and winter frostbiting!) to adult sailing lessons, to facilitating swimming, science and sailing lessons for kids who would otherwise only look at the Atlantic from dry land, Courageous is making sailing accessible to people of diverse income, ability, and skill levels.
I’ve only just gotten involved so I’ll know much more in the months and years to come. For now, I’m just thrilled to be a small part of a magnificent endeavor.
So, what should you know if you want to join a non-profit board?
1) Have a connection to the cause. I think that the rain forests and the whales and the homeless all need help too. But I grew up sailing and it changed my life for the better. I want more people to have that same opportunity.
2) Size matters. Very small organizations (those with budgets of perhaps $500k) have very involved boards - “working boards” they are often called because there is very limited staff and the rest gets done by the board. Very large organizations (budgets of $10M+ have donor boards to write checks and make introductions and full staff to take care of the operations). I wanted a Goldilocks board - somewhere in the middle of giving and effort.
3) Protect yourself. Ask good questions about DNO insurance and fiscal health and succession plans for the executive director, etc. What is the composition of the board (longevity, variety of knowledge, etc)
4) If you make the commitment, commit. Know what is expected of you - from board meeting frequency, to annual giving, to how your skill set will be put to use. If you agree to join the board, be ready to do what you say you will.
5) Get educated. I learned about boards from the Arts & Business Council’s Business on Board program. It’s awesome and not just applicable to arts boards. If you can, check it out!
I’m just getting started so I certainly don’t know it all. What else do you think is important for board members?