10 Questions Potential Board Members Should Ask

by Marie Palacios

Can you imagine getting a phone call from a random friend saying “Hey, we have a job opening at my work and we thought you would be a great fit. You just need to show up, and we will tell you what to do!”?  While that call might be exciting, or at the very least intriguing, you would expect quite a bit more information before accepting the offer.

  • Would you ever expect to secure a new job without filling out an application and background check?
  • Would you accept a job offer without reviewing the job description?
  • Would you expect to know how many hours per week you are expected to work and what your hourly wage or annual salary will be?
  • Would you request a tour of the company or a conversation with your potential supervisor?

Becoming a board member for a non-profit organization is a big commitment, and it should be approached by both the board of directors and the board candidate with the same consideration a new job offer would!

We regularly share tips for organizations striving to build an “A-list” board, but it is important to recognize that the board building process is a two-way street. Today’s blog is for all of you who are considering a role on a board.
As a board member, you are legally and fiscally responsible for the organization you serve. This means the strength of the existing board and the financial state of the organization directly impacts your personal life and wallet!

Before you say “YES” to serving on a board, what should you ask?

  1. Am I passionate about the organization’s mission and vision?
  2. How long has the organization been in existence?
  3. What are current successes the organization is celebrating?
  4. What are current challenges the organization is facing?
  5. What is financial state of the organization?
    1. Is there an operating reserve?
    2. Is the organization in financial crisis?
    3. Does the organization have a current development plan that guides the fundraising/resource development process?
    4. Is the organization preparing or in the middle of a capital campaign?
  6. How are board members recruited, screened, equipped, and empowered to lead?
  7. Does the organization maintain Board and Directors Liability Insurance?
  8. What are the core expectations for board members?
    1. When does the board meet and what are attendance requirements?
    2. How many volunteer hours per month are board members expected to contribute?
    3. How are board members expected to participate in fundraising efforts?
    4. What annual events are board led and what events require board support?
    5. Is there a specific financial contribution level that is expected from each board member?
    6. As a board member, am I expected to serve on sub-committees or task forces?
  9. What skill sets do I bring to the organization and how can the organization engage me in ways that match your skills/passions?
  10. What is a board term (2 years, 3 years?) and am I ready to make a commitment to the organization for that time frame?

By taking the time to ask the right questions, you can ensure that that the organization is better able to fill that open board seat with a passionate and engaged board member. Before you say “YES” be sure you understand board expectations and you are prepared to meet that challenge!