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: How do I find the Right Board Culture for me?

What’s one of the biggest reasons we hear regarding why board service did not work out for someone?  A bad cultural fit with the rest of the board.  Board service should be personally meaningful to you – but it should also be something that you enjoy.  Do you want to spend time with the others on the board you are considering joining?  Do you think these are folks you can work well and get things done with?  These are legitimate and important questions to answer before joining a board.

This week’s post is our attempt to get you started thinking about board cultural fit  For more on what to consider before joining a board, see our book Giving Back, downloadable from the top of every page of our website.  


From Giving Back:


FAQs about Joining a Nonprofit Board: How do I find the Right Board Culture for me?


Although most of us join nonprofit boards because we want to give back, given how many boards will be interested in you, why not pick one with people that make good partners for you?  People who you sincerely like and enjoy seeing.


Are you interested in working with people who look like the people you work with?  Perhaps you are a banker and you would feel most comfortable on a board that included a well respected consultant, lawyer, a few private equity professionals and a few corporate professionals?  Or perhaps you would prefer to take a break from your professional life and meet people from completely different backgrounds?  Many of our candidates enjoy working with actors, writers, directors, doctors, educators, leaders in the nonprofit community and government and entrepreneurs.  The point is that the choice is yours.


An important question to ask in the board interviewing process is what the board turnover rate has been for that organization.  If more than 50% of the board has resigned in the last six months, you would obviously want to know why.  Is it because they can’t partner with the Board Chair?  Or the Executive Director?  Do they feel there is no real role for them?  Are there financial issues that have not been disclosed?  Why is the board adding now?


Take a hard look at the Board Chair specifically.  A lot of board candidates will look at the board list and see a group of professionals that give them comfort, but not focus on the fact that the board member least qualified to lead is the one serving as board chair.  This does happen.  Often the board members most qualified to lead just don’t have the time to commit to serving as board chair.   Do the board meetings take three hours when they could be done in an hour and a half as a result? And finally, is the person serving as board chair someone you have confidence in to be the watch dog of the organization?



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.