Tips to land a seat on a nonprofit board – Daily News

on Jan13
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Once considered the exclusive arena of leaders and professionals age 50 years and older, and of certain socioeconomic status, board service opportunities are expanding.

Forward-thinking nonprofits seek more diversity, understanding that this contributes to better thoughts and decisions. With people of different backgrounds and experiences, the varying points of view allow boards to better address the challenges of a changing community.

But how do you take advantage of this growing opportunity? How do you prepare for board service so that you can contribute to this?

These five steps are important to work through. They’ll make you board-ready and considered an attractive candidate:

1. Understand your motives for board service.

Why do you want to serve? To be committed to your position and credible to the organization, you must know the answer to this question. Particularly with a charity, it will be helpful for you to have an interest in its purpose or some sort of affiliation or affinity to the sector. If you do not yet have a specific charity in mind, consider the basic six charitable sectors and decide which interests you most: animal, environmental, international NGOs, health, education and arts and culture.

2. Leverage your network.

Are you waiting for the nonprofit to reach out to you and ask you to serve? That’s a poor strategy. Instead, tap into your network and take the initiative. Voice your desire to serve. Review the board roster of nonprofits that interest you. You may find you know someone who is already serving, and you can reach out and connect. Follow up these initial conversations with a request for introductions as you move forward.

3. Identify experience you bring to the table.

And how can you relate this in a way that is attractive to the board? Loving the nonprofit’s mission is not enough to qualify you. You must be able to support the cause in a way that moves the mission forward. For example, you may have governance expertise. You may have business ownership experience. If you are a strategist, you can demonstrate past success that would be helpful to the board. Be sure that you’re confident in this.

4. Know how to express your value.

Once you identify the experience you bring to the table, you must be able to articulate this and give examples of how it’s created positive business or community impact. Prepare yourself not only by remembering what to share in conversation with decision-makers, but also plan to present it in a formal cover letter and résumé as you explore your candidacy. Many larger nonprofits require this.

5. Be able to articulate your “why.”

As you seek board service opportunities, be ready to share why you want a board seat. What is your reason for wanting to serve? There are a few reasons why individuals seek to serve in this capacity, and surprisingly, not all are benevolent.

For example, many want to serve to build their network and contacts, to wield influence, and even strengthen their career opportunities. Board service can certainly help with this. However, only one answer is appealing to the nonprofit, and that is that you want to make a difference. Be sure that you take some time to consider this and to be genuine in your desire to make impact on the larger picture. Read up on how the nonprofit makes impact and find an aspect that excites you.

If you seek to contribute through board service, beginning with a local charity or other nonprofit is a great way to get some experience and exposure. And if you are dedicated and serve well, more invitations will follow.

Patti Cotton, MA, MAOD, PCC ( works with executives, business owners, and their companies, to elevate and support leadership at all levels. Her client roster includes privately-owned businesses and entities such asBank of America, Boeing, Coca-Cola, Harvard University, Sysco, Edward Jones, Morgan Stanley, Girl Scouts of America, and more.

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