Serving on a board is many women’s way of giving back to their communities, states and country. Once someone feels they’ve established themselves in their field or community, they often will join a board of an organization that promotes and believes in shared ideals. It’s an excellent way to give any time and resources you might have to strengthen your community.
And while being a board member sounds like an excellent way to contribute to something you believe in, not everyone realizes the commitment and involvement it takes to be an outstanding, helpful board member. ELYSIAN compiled a list of musts for any incoming board member so that you and your organization get the most out of your service.
Don’t Just Understand Your Organization, Be an Advocate
As a board member, you need to understand the business or organization you’re serving. – and then go even further and advocate for the organization. Hold true to your morals and join organizations you are interested in, spaces where your values align. Be excited to be a part of the organization and know what’s going on so that when people ask about your involvement, you’re ready to go with why you support the organization, what you are working on, and what your organization’s needs are.
Many board members receive their position due to their connections within the organization. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. If someone in an organization knows your character and trusts that you have important things to say, take it as a compliment and prove them right. Before most board meetings, the organization will prepare a board book with documents to get its members up to speed about what’s happening. This will include financial statements, personnel decisions, and short- and long-term strategies. Read it! Walking into a meeting knowing what the discussion topics will be makes it much easier to formulate meaningful questions and conversations.
Also, do not underestimate the time commitment. Each organization will have regular meetings, and you will be expected to attend them on time.
Know Your Role
When serving on a board of directors, your job is to oversee and advise. You must understand the difference between oversight and interference and be predisposed to knowing you will not be executing or implementing the advice you give. Furthermore, the organization may sometimes go in a different direction than you think is best. When this happens, have an open mind to other ideas and perspectives, and remember to stay motivated and committed when your vision is not implemented.
Remember that you are a mentor, and your role is to give advice. You should be constructively challenging business moves you disagree with while listening to their rationale.
Give or Invest
When serving on a board, it’s crucial for member participation to be 100%. What better way to ensure everyone is invested in the organization’s success? Whether it be a nonprofit or a for-profit business, giving and investing are essential in indicating to the organization and the public that you believe in the group’s mission.
Deciding how much to give to a nonprofit can be tricky as you receive no monetary compensation for your time or contribution. This should be a decision based on how much you and your family feel good about giving to solidify your involvement in the organization but not create a position of financial strain. The good news is, no matter how much you decide to give, even just a little contribution can boost board member participation and encourage other donor participation, leading to better financial health for the organization.
Investing in a for-profit business is simpler when deciding how much to invest. Depending on the company’s success, you will likely be able to either make that money back or receive a more significant sum later on.