Captioning–Press (Special Page)

"Our BoardAssist candidates have been amazing additions to our Board of Directors."

Executive Director, Good Shepherd Services.
Credit: Volunteers of America
helping individuals and families in need

FAQs about Joining a Nonprofit Board: Established or Start Up – What’s best for ME?

You’ve made the decision to join a nonprofit board and be an agent of change in the nonprofit community.  Now what?  What should you be thinking about as you consider all the different terrific boards that might want you on their team?  We’d argue one of your first considerations should be whether you want to join a startup or established board.  

For more of the questions you should ask as you consider board service, read our book Giving Back, downloadable from the top of every page of our website.  In the meantime, dive in below for some criteria to weigh as you begin your search for your dream board.  

From Giving Back:


FAQs about Joining a Nonprofit Board:  Established or Start Up

Many BoardAssist candidates come to us with a firm idea of whether they want to join the board of a start up or a well established nonprofit.  For some, the thought is that they will engage more actively with a start up.  While this is often true, it is not always true.  Younger, small budget nonprofits don’t always offer the greatest opportunity to engage.

Joining a young nonprofit does offer many the chance to build something from the ground up. That’s exciting for a lot of candidates but comes with the related frustrations of working in a smaller organization.  A smaller budget organization is going to have a smaller staff.  That means when you have an epiphany at a board meeting for some great new program, there are less people in the office who can help you make this dream a reality.  You may either need to dig in yourself and get your hands dirty, or be patient until your idea is executed.

On an older, more established board; the question to ask is whether board members really have an active role to play.  Or does everything run so well with the 250 person staff that the board does little but rubber stamp the Executive Director’s ideas?  One of the great situations for a candidate can be a large, established board that is in a major transition.  Perhaps the Executive Director is stepping down after twenty years and now all programming decisions are going to go through a six month review.  That could be a very exciting time to join.  Or maybe the board chair, who has held that position for 10 years, is stepping down.  Perhaps the nonprofit is about to merge or acquire another charity.  Or the board is all retiring down to Palm Beach and a whole new board has to be built.  Often an established nonprofit board in flux can be as entrepreneurial an opportunity as a young, start up.


Want to read more of the FAQs folks ask us before joining a nonprofit board?  Learn more by downloading Giving Back, our guide to nonprofit board service, complete with case studies and answers to the FAQs we are asked most about board service.

Ready to dive in and start exploring the perfect board for you?  Tell us more about what matters most to you – what your dream board looks like – and we’ll get started.