Board membership is an experience that is impactful for both the individual member and the organization they’re serving. Nonprofits gain a knowledgeable, skilled, and connected community member, and the board member has the opportunity to expand their social circle and learn more about a good cause. Sounds simple, right?

That’s because in some ways it is. Where things get tricky is when you start considering the pieces and the whole. A few weeks ago, I wrote a blog on best practices for building successful boards. Today, I want to focus on the single person and break down what makes a good board member. Here are a few characteristics that stand out in my mind:

1. Beyond Curious
If a community member is interested in joining your organization’s board, they should have an idea about the work you do. That idea shouldn’t be where their curiosity stops. People interested in board membership should want to learn more about the ins-and-outs of how your nonprofit functions. They should be curious about the communities you serve and your mission.

Curiosity is important because it’s connected to a deep interest in the work and a passion for the mission. When people are curious, they’re passionate, and when they’re passionate, they’re willing to go that extra mile for the cause.

2. Transferable Skills

Boards are like the supervisors of an entire organization. Because of the board’s position, when there’s an issue in the hierarchy or organizational workflow, it’s the board’s job to fix the issue. This may include putting their professional experience to use. For example, if a nonprofit’s staff is stretched thin for their annual event, board members with event planning experience should step in to support them.

Volunteering or working for a nonprofit requires wearing many hats. We’re in a sector that’s usually understaffed, meaning teams have to work outside their comfort zones to get the job done. Because this is so common, board members with transferable skills that easily support the weaker foundations of a nonprofit are essential.

3. Sense of Ownership

People take pride in their work when they have a sense of ownership. What I mean is you want your board members to have some skin in the game, as the saying goes, instead of treating the position like another line on their social resume. The sense of ownership is the difference between a good board member and a great one.

Board members with this deep investment are willing to do the extra work for the nonprofit. They’re the people who offer their homes as venues for events, run in your annual marathon, or represent your nonprofit at conventions. In short, they go the extra mile.

4. Time to Spare

The reality is there’s only so much time in a day, and most of us don’t have the same twenty-four hours. Sometimes board candidates have the personal and professional qualities you’re looking for in a member. The only problem is their schedule is already packed with other volunteer work, including other board positions.

Acting as a board member requires time, occasionally more than initially thought. No single person can be in two places at once, and there’s no point in having someone on your board who misses more meetings than they attend. If their seat is usually empty, you need to rethink their membership and what they’re bringing to the organization.

If you’re interested in learning more about board management, schedule a free 30-minute consultation with me to see how we can work together.


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