How to be a GREAT board member

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A while back, we talked about specific questions you should ask before joining a board (read the full blog post here). Now that you have asked your questions and decided to join that board, let’s talk about what it means to be not just a board member, but a GREAT board member. Here are six ways you can be an effective and valuable board member.

  1. Ask questions – Didn’t we just say that? Yes, but now that you are an official board member, you will be participating in meetings, reviewing executive director reports, committee updates and financials. If you have a question, ask it. Having served on several boards myself, there have been times where I was hesitant to ask a question. I asked anyway and it turned out, I wasn’t the only person who needed clarification. It is your job as a board member to govern the organization and make sure it is acting ethically, in line with its mission and being responsible financially so questions are crucial.
  2. Participate – Serving on a board is much more than just showing up to meetings. You should be actively participating by sharing ideas on how to improve, asking questions (yes, again) and even challenging the status quo. You are there for a reason. You were chosen to be a board member for your expertise – use it!
  3. Listen – As much as it’s important to participate, it’s just as important to listen. You need to fully understand what is being presented at the board meetings so you can make the right decisions and act on them in a way that is best for the organization and stakeholders. If you don’t understand something, see number one above!
  4. Collaborate – When you join a board, you are a part of a diverse group of people from different industries, companies, positions and with different personalities. You were all selected because you bring something valuable to the table. Blend your unique skills together to lead the organization to success.
  5. Learn how to read financial statements – This is extremely important. If you are not a financial person by trade, you must learn to read financial statements because as a board member, you are responsible to review them and ensure the organization is meeting its financial goals. Ask questions (there it is again) and if you need more help, take a course online or at a community college. This will not only help you as a board member, but in business in general.
  6. Advocate – It is very important for board members to advocate for the agency they are serving. Board members are the links to the business community, policy makers and other community leaders. As Lynette Whiteman, Executive Director of Caregiver Volunteers of Central Jersey says, “A great board member translates into a great advocate for our agency. It is someone who believes in our mission and connects on a personal level. If there is that connection, it follows that they will want to open doors for financial support, volunteer recruitment and helping us achieve our goals for the future.”

These are only a handful of the important things you can do to be an effective board member. It’s much more than just showing up and putting it on your resume. It is your job to serve as ethically and responsibly as possible. It’s a lot of work, but very rewarding and fulfilling!