What You Need to Know Before Serving on a Non-Profit Board

By Sally Hanley-Whitworth, CFP® | Executive Vice President, Wealth Services | 01.25.2018

When you are successful, it’s natural to feel a desire to give back to your community. One way to do this is to volunteer to serve on a non-profit board.

Serving on a board of a charity or other non-profit provides you the opportunity to help your community in a meaningful way, while at the same time forging contacts that could prove useful to business and charitable projects down the road.

Before you decide to accept an invitation (or seek out an appointment) to serve on a non-profit board, here are some things to keep in mind:

Does the Organization Align with Your Values?

Your first step is to dig a little deeper. Do you agree with the values and mission of the organization? Additionally, look into how the organization supports its mission and professed values, and whether they’re considered to be an organization you feel is worthy of your time. One good resource for this research is Guidestar, which has an abundance of information on non-profits.

Take the time to visit the organization and observe some of the programs in practice to get a feel for whether the organization reflects your values and your hopes for improving the community. If there are a few inconsistencies and inefficiencies, your position on the board—along with any expertise you have—could be valuable in helping improve the effectiveness of the organization.

Your ability to help the organization live up to its mission and values can be one of the best ways to give back to the community.

What are the Roles and Responsibilities of Board Members?

Some organizations just expect board members to take votes, while others expect more involvement. Will your board member responsibilities cut into the time you spend working or running your business?

Many successful entrepreneurs join boards so they can help direct community efforts and make a difference. They might be very involved, giving several hours a week to their duties. Others instead join boards in an advisory capacity, participating only a few hours a month or quarter to help provide direction and insight.

As you look to balance your community involvement with work, business, and family life, consider the expectations of your role on an organization’s board. Choose a situation that reflects your current ability to give of your time and expertise.

Is There a Financial Expectation for Board Members?

In some cases, board members are actually expected to provide a generous financial contribution to the organization when they join. The idea is that you will be more invested in the organization and its direction if your money is being used.

However, in many cases, the return you receive on your “investment” is going to be emotional, or provide dividends for the community, rather than result in personal financial enrichment.

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If you still have questions or concerns regarding this topic, reach out to our retirement plan team experts—we would be happy to help.

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