I love this quote, it insightful and conveys the inspirations and aspirations of people who want to serve their communities as nonprofit Board members. They are excited and moved by the vision of what’s possible.
However often when we ask people to serve on Boards, as soon as they say “yes”, we tend to gloss over the “imaging what’s possible” and immediately hand them a contract and set up an orientation focusing on the expected commitments; the needs: “you need to fundraise”,”you need to invite people to our annual dinner” and the musts: “you must attend at least 75% of the meetings,” “you must make a personal contribution,” and “you must serve on a committee.”
People are enthusiastic to fulfill those obligations: They want to be responsible, committed board members, they want to support the organization as advocates, ambassadors, friend/fund raisers and they are happy to attend productive meetings. Meetings where people trust one another, where there is respect for different views and encouragement of healthy conflict. Meetings where members and the organization hold themselves accountable for results and vision and where creativity and innovation is encouraged and celebrated. And meetings that are energizing, and, just as importantly, fun!
Most importantly they expect to engage in moving the organization’s mission and vision forward and knowing there is value and respect for their time and service. They want to know that their actions and efforts are moving the vision for the community forward. They want to know that they are making a difference. People serve on Boards because they want to govern; they want to serve as stewards and want to engage in strategic, dynamic organizations that positively impact their communities. What could be possible for our communities if everyone who served on Boards believed that their service was positively impacting the world?
In supporting people in choosing if a board service opportunity is right for them, there are some questions I ask them to explore:
- Is this an organization whose mission and vision I am passionate about?
- Is this an organization whose culture and values I share?
- Is this an organization who would benefit from the talents, skills, and leadership I would bring to the organization?
- Am I passionate about being a community steward?
I also recommend they engage in this conversation with the organization’s leadership and ask:
- How do you move your mission/vision forward?
- How do you live your values?
- How do you engage in strategic planning? Is conversation about strategy a part of every board meeting?
- What is your business model?
- How do you coach, mentor and train board members?
- How do you address mission, vision and values during regular board meetings?
- What is the process for dialogue? How is participation nurtured?
- How do you develop and support new board members?
- How do you structure committees to ensure the work of the Board gets done?
- How does the organization celebrate its accomplishments?
There are many talented, innovative, and energetic people who want to serve on Boards; however, they are looking for experiences that have meaning. Experiences that build their team-building and leadership skills and enhance their sense of commitment to community. If you are thinking about serving on a board these are some questions you may want to ask; if you are recruiting new board members, think about how you answer these questions. And, enjoy! Board service is an amazing experience.