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How to decide if joining a nonprofit board is right for you

Posted September 7, 2023 by Virginia Davidson

joining a nonprofit board

What’s the right answer if you’re asked to join a nonprofit board?

You may care deeply about a cause or be very invested in your community, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the answer is yes. To help you make an informed decision, we recommend checking out The Little Book of Boards by author Erik Hanberg.

Along with covering the fundamental duties of being a board member, Erik recommends a set of questions that prospective board members can explore before they make a commitment.

3 questions to consider before joining a nonprofit board

Think through these questions before you make your decision:

Question 1: When does the board meet?

If the meetings conflict with your existing schedule, your decision becomes quite straightforward. You shouldn’t in good conscience join a board if you can’t attend its meetings.

Question 2: What documents can you review before you make a decision?

Reviewing board documents will give you a good sense of the topics the board covers, and the general state of the organization itself. Erik recommends asking for the following: Current budget, the most recent financial report provided to board members, bylaws, minutes and agenda for the last couple of meetings, and, if applicable, the strategic plan.

If you aren’t used to reading financial statements, don’t let that deter you from joining the board. This is a learnable skill! Our blog post on reading four key nonprofit financial statements will give you a foundation for understanding these statements. Erik also encourages you to feel comfortable asking the board president to walk you through the statements.

Question 3: What are the term limits?

A term limit provides you with a defined period of your board service. At the end of your term, you can gracefully depart at the completion of your service, or you may choose to serve another term if permitted. Knowing the extent of your commitment will help you assess if the timing is right for you to join the board.


The desire to serve on a board of directors is admirable. Also, it’s important that you serve an organization whose mission resonates with you and whose board governance works for you. Even if the mission of the organization is one you find worthwhile, it doesn’t necessarily mean that being a board member is the right fit for you. Reviewing the minutes and agenda of recent board meetings will help you determine if the actual work of the board of directors interests you and is something you want to dedicate your time to. We recommend checking out Erik Hanberg’s book The Little Book of Boards for more guidance on how to be an effective board member.

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