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Sunday, June 26, 2011

Committed Board Member or Resume Builder? Motivations for Joining a board - Emily

We’ve all been there: you are assigned to a team and a project is due, but your teammate is MIA. Your grade is based, in par on “active participation.” When the project is done and the grades are handed out, everyone gets the same grade. The not-so-stellar student accepts the grade and moves on while those who worked hard for the success of the team are left frustrated.

A similar situation may be true in the case of the uncommitted board member. Maybe he or she is more interested in fleshing out their resume, and not so much interested in the actual “work” of being an active participant on the board. The frustration and disappointment of others who are giving freely of their time and talents is soon quite obvious. While a project grade will not handed out, the mission and viability it certainly placed in jeopardy. This isn’t just a resume-building venture. Sitting on the board of any organization in an honor as they select members for their talents, knowledge, connections, and willingness to serve others without the expectation of monetary gain.

Having the commitment of an individual agree to serve on a nonprofit organization board is just one part of the equation. Both the board and the individual have responsibilities once that commitment has been made. This new member will need to be oriented to the mission, financial status, populations served, needs, and goals of the organization. A thorough orientation will help ensure a smooth transition to becoming a part of the team, ready to lead the organization into the future.

Resume building is one motivation for joining a board. There are other, less selfish, reasons to commit time and energy into and organization. The obvious one is a personal interest in the mission of the organization. Members may request or may be selected to join a board of directors based on what they can offer to the organization. This is an opportunity for both parties to benefit from achieving a common goal. Being a part of something bigger than you is fulfilling. The hope is that all board members join for this reason. A big responsibility falls of the chair and the collective board to keep each member enthusiastic and involved; “[b]oard members need to feel useful. Some come with much enthusiasm, only to be ignored, perhaps unintentionally, by their peers, development professionals, or the CEO” (Wagner, 1994).

Wagner, L. (1994). The road least traveled: Board roles in fundraising. New Directions for Philanthropic Fundraising, 4, 33-47.

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