A diverse group of six people stands in a row behind a table piled with boxes of donations marked "food" and "clothes." The group members all wear turquoise t-shirts and white cards on black lanyards. The room around them is plain and industrial and filled with racks of clothing, stacks of books, more boxes and assorted office furniture.
In addition to being a resume boost and a great networking opportunity, joining the board of a nonprofit can be a fulfilling way to give back to your community. — Getty Images/miodrag ignjatovic

Joining the board of directors at a nonprofit is a great way to give back to your community, network with like-minded professionals and boost your resume. Here are five steps you can take to find and join the right nonprofit.

[Read more: Choosing the Right Nonprofit Type: Which Is Right For Your Business?]

Research several organizations

You don’t just want to join the board for any nonprofit that will take you. You want to find an organization you’re passionate about and that your skills are a good match for.

Start by identifying the type of organization you want to serve. For instance, are you interested in local issues, or are you looking for a nonprofit with a national reach? Are you passionate about social justice, homelessness, the environment or education? Narrowing the scope of your focus will help you identify the nonprofits you may be a good fit for.

It can also help to use a nonprofit matching service. There are companies that specialize in matching individuals to nonprofits that need qualified board members.

Contact the nonprofit for more information

Once you’ve found a nonprofit that you’re interested in, contact them to learn more about the organization. Look at the website and, if it's a local organization, visit the offices. Try to learn as much as you can about what the nonprofit does and who it serves.

Once you’re sure that it’s a good fit for you, schedule an appointment with the chief executive to express your interest in joining the board. Of course, that nonprofit may not need a new board member at this point. But by establishing contact and stating your interest, you put yourself in a position to fill in when the need does arise.

[Read more: Nonprofit vs. Not-for-Profit vs. For-Profit: What's the Difference?]

Serving as a board member involves more than just showing up at occasional meetings.

Start as a volunteer

Volunteering is a great way to learn more about the organization and get to know other people. You’ll have a better understanding of how the nonprofit works, and you may get the opportunity to meet other board members.

If the opportunity arises, it’s also a good idea to volunteer for a fundraising committee. Of course, doing this isn’t a guarantee you’ll get chosen to serve on the board. But fundraising is usually one of the biggest responsibilities of board members, so having the experience can only help you.

Understand the expectations

If you’re invited to join a prestigious board, then it may be tempting to agree right off the bat. However, you want to ask lots of questions and make sure you understand what’s expected of you as a board member.

Serving as a board member involves more than just showing up at occasional meetings. Board members often have financial and legal obligations. For instance, some board members are required to pay dues, donate a certain amount of money or commit time volunteering.

And you need to find out how often the board meets and how long your term limit will be. Look for an organization that provides new board members with training and adequate liability insurance coverage.

Go through the recruitment process

Assuming you’re selected to join the board, you’ll go through the recruitment process and begin serving your first term. If you’re still on the fence, you can ask to do a trial run before serving your term.

Serving on the board will not always be easy, so it’s important to remember why you wanted to join in the first place. Look for ways to stay passionate about the nonprofit and the individuals it serves.

When you care about the mission and the purpose behind the nonprofit, serving as a board member will become a more worthwhile experience.

[Read more: 7 Things to Consider When Starting a Nonprofit]

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Published June 01, 2021