What Board Members Do
Nonprofit board members are in charge of overseeing company management and policies. They may also be involved in election processes for executive positions within their organization, in order to strengthen and maintain their company’s standards and reach business goals. Some of their leadership responsibilities include promoting diversity among staff, organizing fundraisers, and communicating with government officials to enact change on behalf of their organizations.
On a day-to-day basis, board members communicate with executives to offer opinions and insight, promote their company through outreach programs and marketing models, and ensure that the company objectives are met. They collaborate with other staff to determine policies, goals, and budgets.
Who would enjoy a career in Board Directorship?
Board members should be passionate about their work. Even though much of the work a board member does for a nonprofit organization is similar to other for profit organizations, the motivation is different. Nonprofit board members must be motivated to work to better their communities and make change. Ideally they should be great communicators, outgoing and eager to meet new people, strong leaders, and business-minded. Being familiar or at least interested in local and national politics is also important. Board members should also be motivated by job fulfillment rather than salary, since many nonprofit organizations can’t afford to pay their employees extravagantly.
Who mightn't like the career?
Being a board member at a nonprofit organization is not a good fit for those who are motivated by money. Those who desire work with an impressive income will likely be discouraged and frustrated by the job atmosphere of a nonprofit, where the staff is motivated by doing fulfilling work.
This job also involves wearing many different hats and being versatile on a day-to-day basis; employees who need structure and a definitive set of job duties will likely be overwhelmed. There is also a great sense of responsibility as a board member; strong advocates for the organization are necessary and those who shy away from leadership or intense communication with others won’t succeed in their positions.
Board members usually hold a bachelor’s degree in business or a related field. Depending on the organization, employers may prefer candidates with law degrees given the board’s laws and regulations which require knowledge and oversight. In either case, relevant experience is valuable. Without a degree, candidates can still find success if they have relevant volunteering experience and can show the skills they gained in the field. Volunteering can lead to an internship at the desired organization, which can be the perfect lead-in for employment.
When preparing for an interview, be aware of your strengths and what you can bring to the board of the organization. Note the experience you gained from an internship and/or formal education. Use any existing connections or letters of recommendation from previous employers that can speak to the skills you’d like to employ as a board member.
Moving into Board Directorship from another career
Working for a nonprofit organization as a board member can be a reality for almost anyone. Getting started in the nonprofit industry can come down to volunteering, making connections, and getting a foot in the door for an open position.
For inspiration, read “3 Reasons You Should Work for a Nonprofit.” Many careers will provide skills that can be used as a board member for a nonprofit. For example, working in management for any company will be valuable experience for hiring the proper staff for a nonprofit, which is often a job responsibility of a board member.
Careers in politics, business, government leadership, or human resources can find success on a board of directors. For personalized advice on how to make this career change, read “How to Break Into Nonprofit Work.”
Role: Volunteering is one of the best ways to move up into a nonprofit organization and eventually become a board member. Volunteer work can vary drastically from organization to organization, but it often involves running errands for the staff, entering data, typing up communication, working in the community for various outreach programs, or making phone calls to various contacts for donations, partnerships, etc.
Role: Internships are a great way to get relevant technical and personal experience. Unlike volunteers, interns usually have a more structured job description and often complete their internships after a season or set period of time. This example of an internship from Dream Careers describes the duties of a communications intern: writing press releases, attending meetings and seminars, contacting reporters, etc. Again, these will vary depending on the nonprofit, but interns usually work closely with permanent staff members and adopt many of their responsibilities.
Role: Board members often end up in their positions after successful internships in their organizations. These employees are responsible for the ethical hiring of a CEO and other executives to manage daily operations, and then continuing to oversee staff members to ensure all the organization’s key values and standards are being upheld. They also collaborate with others to make moral financial decisions. Overall, their main goals are to lead a successful nonprofit and plan for its advancement and betterment.
Board members may travel to meet with various policy makers, government officials, or company partnerships. This is usually local, but non-profit organizations that work internationally will provide more opportunities.
Data from PayScale reports that board members in the United States earn an average salary of $61,000 each year. United Kingdom board members earn an average of £90,000, and those in Canada earn about CAD$87,000 per year. In Australia, paid board members get remunerated in various ways. However, future employees may need to dig a little deeper to find data on what they may earn as a board member. Board Direction notes that chair members can earn anywhere from AU$30,000 to $700,000, non-executives can expect to earn an average of AU$61,000, and committee members can earn AU$19,000 to $38,000.
Bonuses and overtime rates may apply.
Why Board Members move on
It can be challenging to leave a career as board member as the career is generally an incredibly rewarding choice. For board members of nonprofit organizations they feel passionately about, it can feel like a test of moral values. However, many board members can eventually feel challenges maintaining the responsibilities of the role, particularly if the position is one of many Board seats or roles individual person holds.
Fortunately, with the many skills that board members acquire along the way, there are many options for changing careers. Board members usually have strong business skills that can help them in various leadership and management positions, as well as excellent communication skills that all employers can appreciate. It’s also a great time to use the many connections that nonprofit employees gain in their careers.