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How To Do a Good Job on a Nonprofit Board

So you’ve joined the board of a nonprofit where you care about the mission and the work, you think you can be useful, and you like some of the people you’ll be working with–the ones you’ve met so far. What do you do next in order to be productive? 1. Learn more about the organization and the community you serve.

row team-photo

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So you’ve joined the board of a nonprofit where you care about the mission and the work, you think you can be useful, and you like some of the people you’ll be working with–the ones you’ve met so far. What do you do next in order to be productive?

1. Learn more about the organization and the community you serve.

  • Spend some time with the nonprofit’s CEO (and if appropriate and necessary, the CFO and senior program people) learning about the organization, its core programs, and the business model.
  • Make a site visit to learn about core programs and the organization’s key clients and constituents.
  • Understand the revenue model, who the funders are and their interests, and the funding challenges and opportunities.
  • Be observant in the board meetings about who leads, and the nature of the group dynamics.

2. Figure out where you can be most useful.

  • It’s very possible that you will be asked to help in a myriad of ways. Stop and consider! And discuss with the CEO and/or board chair exactly how and where you can be most useful (and where you will also find the experience most rewarding). It’s best to dig in and do an outstanding job in one or two ways, and then add to your plate.

3. Understand the differences between nonprofits and for-profits.

  • You are driving to a mission, not profits, although you should also do all that you can to help build a sustainable revenue model.

4. Glory in the work of the organization.

  • Learn-To-RowI have the thrill of working with nonprofit boards where I place business executives, and I myself serve on the board of Row New York. If you take the time to visit the sites and experience the important work your organization does, it is very meaningful. This will also make you a better advocate, which is an important part of your role as a board member.

5. Enjoy working with the CEO and your colleagues on the board.

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  • You are coming together from different backgrounds and perspectives to achieve a compelling purpose. Get to know people and appreciate them!

6. Be generous.

  • Help, contribute, step up.

Photos from Row New York

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About the author

Korngold provides strategy consulting to global corporations on sustainability, facilitating corporate-nonprofit partnerships, and training and placing hundreds of business executives on NGO/nonprofit boards for 20+ years. She provides strategy and board governance consulting to NGO/nonprofit boards, foundations, and educational and healthcare institutions. Korngold's latest book is "A Better World, Inc.: How Companies Profit by Solving Global Problems…Where Governments Cannot," published by Palgrave Macmillan for release on 1/7/14

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