What to look for before joining a board

imgres-2After posting about why do people treat a non-profit differently than a profit someone tweeted back at me with the question what do you look for before joining a board.   Such a great question and never an easy answer.

Let’s start with a non-profit board.  People join these boards for a variety of reasons and most of them are because the mission of the organization is something that they care about.  Here are some questions to start.  Who is the executive director?  What is the annual budget? What is expected of me in regards to raising money or even giving money?  Prestigious boards usually come with a big price tag.  Who are the other people on the board?  Do I like them? Can I work with them?  Do they care about the same things that I care about?  What are my expectations as a board member?  How often do they meet?  What is the big vision here?  No answer is the right answer it is just the answer that makes you comfortable taking a seat.  It is also important to know what is expected of you.

I just recently joined a large non-profit board.  I was honored to be asked.  I wasn’t sure if I should join.  I needed to know a few things before saying yes.  I also wanted to be clear about what I would be able to do from timing, financial expectations, etc.  I am thrilled to be part of the organization but I did not want to join without full transparency about what I was capable of doing.

Profit boards are totally different.  I do not sit on a publicly traded board and I hope I never do.  It just does not interest me.  Sitting on start-up boards totally interests me.  I want to know who the players are on the board.  Where we are in the trajectory of the company. What they are hoping I bring to the table.  I am on several start-up boards that are really the beginnings of the company.  I know exactly what my role should be here and I try to live up to that role daily.  It is completely different than being on a company farther ahead down the road or a non-profit board.

I am a big fan of transparency.  Ask those questions, know what is expected, understand who all the players are and realize what the time commitment is.  Boards can be a drain but they can also be incredibly rewarding.  I always hope for the latter but it is never that easy.