Why Serve on a Nonprofit Board of Directors?

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Nonprofits often face difficulty in finding good candidates to serve on their boards. According to the BoardSource Nonprofit Governance Index 2007, the main reason is that potential leaders do not have time. Fifty-six percent of board members surveyed said that they already belong to two or more boards and 13 percent served on four or more boards. Yet, board membership is a privilege and provides benefits to the individual, the nonprofit and the community.

Prestige and Passion

Board service brings board members prestige and networking opportunities with other individuals who are leaders in the community. This provides board members with contacts to help them reach other social or professional goals. Board service also allows board members to work on issues that they care passionately about, such as housing the homeless, preventing animal abuse or providing clean drinking water in developing countries. Board members, for example, help to establish and continually develop the nonprofit's mission, vision and direction.

Applying and Adding Skills

Some board members give back to the community by applying what they learned from their work in the corporate world to nonprofits. A nonprofit needs board members who can help it in areas such as budgeting, personnel policies, communications, marketing and more. Depending on the types of board projects they work on, board members sometimes add to their already-acquired business skills through board experience.

Bringing a Diverse Point of View

Nonprofits also need diverse community members with unique perspectives to help them best serve people. For example, as Board Café points out (April 15, 2002), a nonprofit serving those with disabilities needs people with disabilities on its board, as does a Latino community center need board members who are Latino. A diverse board helps to ensure that the needs and perspectives of people using the nonprofit's services are reflected in its planning, operations and programs.

Preserving the Public Trust

Some corporations, such as Enron, and some nonprofits have received a lot of public attention for being mismanaged. Board members help nonprofits avoid that kind of trouble. Board members govern an organization to make sure it is run legally and ethically and is not misusing public funds. According to the University of Nebraska -- Lincoln Extension in an article from 2005, nonprofit board duties include developing financial controls and procedures, establishing and monitoring a financial recordkeeping system and ensuring that financial-reporting systems are in place.

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