Define Your Interests and Commitment Level
Research nonprofits that align with your mission and interests. Find out what programs are successful, where there are areas of opportunity and what the organization wants to focus on over the next few years. Ask how often the board meets and what is expected of each board member from a time and monetary commitment. Then, ask yourself if those commitments are in line with your availability and budget. If there is a financial giving expectation, this commitment will typically be considered a charitable donation, and therefore a tax deduction. Seriously consider your availability to commit your time and resources to the organization so you can manage expectations appropriately without overcommitting. It is often the case that time is more valued than financial resources.
Create Your Personal Sales Strategy
Identify and clearly communicate your strengths. Boards are looking for members with specific skill sets – it may be technology, financial analysis or marketing, for example. Know what you can contribute, and as you talk to executives about opportunities, make sure you can communicate how your skills would be helpful to the nonprofit. The process of getting on a board is as much about how you sell yourself as the skills that you bring.
Raise Your Profile by Positioning Yourself as an Expert Publicly
Take advantage of opportunities to get your voice heard by writing or public speaking. Boards are looking for someone with a unique perspective – someone who can help them overcome challenges. Authoring articles and speaking at events are great ways to increase your name recognition and personal brand and be seen as a subject matter expert.
Building a network is critical in all aspects of your professional and personal life. If you do not know where to begin, an easy place is with college alumni groups in your area, industry conferences and local organizations. LinkedIn is a great place to connect with old friends and colleagues as well as new ones. You can use LinkedIn to identify members of a nonprofit board you may be interested in and see if you have any mutual connections. If you can, meet with multiple members of the organization, from board members to program administrators, to find out about their experiences. Not only will you be demonstrating your interest in the organization, but you will be learning more about it and expanding your network.
To come full circle and refer back to the first tip, you want to find a nonprofit where you feel aligned with the mission. If you feel passionate about the organization, being authentic will come easily. Find an organization and a board where there is a cultural fit. Be yourself, and enjoy what you do.