It is a huge commitment that requires devotion and proactive effort like making a cake from scratch for your son’s 10th birthday party. A big deal indeed!
Most people want to serve because they have passion for a cause or mission which is certainly important and an essential ingredient. It’s like the flour in the cake recipe, necessary but not everything.
To build an exceptional board and make the best cake ever, one must follow the guide which are, in this case, bylaws and your grandma’s recipe. In both, there should be clear directions on what to do at every step.
To create the perfect cake and an effective board, passion, finesse, and know-how are needed. To be clear, showing up at meetings, making a financial contribution and attending the gala is not the total kit and caboodle for nonprofit board service. It is not the delectable cake that family and friends will be talking about for years to come.
It is more like raising the bar each day by advocating for your mission and bringing your best self to service for your nonprofit.
It is knowing standards and best practices in nonprofit board service in an environment where continuous learning is encouraged and applauded.
It is having a 360-degree perspective with peer board members who are diverse and not afraid of new ideas, constructive conflict, and purposeful disruption.
It is holding the nonprofit you serve, accountable by expecting information in a timely fashion; having your time respected; and having accurate reports that tell the story of what is happening inside the organization.
It is not favoritism for some because of their social or professional influence and ability to cut a big check. The same rules apply to each member and accountability is part of the culture.
It’s about checks and balances and evaluation. This means a self-assessment of your collective work as the board and a consistent evaluation of the Chief Executive Officer.
It is transcendent leadership and planning for turnover by mentoring and grooming leaders to take the helm when the opportunity arises. This is called sponsorship.
It is about recusing yourself when your life takes a turn and will interfere with your ability to give nonprofit board service your all.
It is about being “ALL IN” and clear about expectations of you as a board member. Read the bylaws!
So, before you jump for it, bake the cake. Add up all the ingredients and stir them thoroughly until your batter is smooth and you know for sure that your cake is ready to go in at 360 degrees.
In doing so, you may discover that nonprofit board service is not for you and that is okay. But if after tasting that delicious slice and yummy frosting, you decide to move forward, know that it can be one of the most meaningful experiences of your life. It is a way to use your God-given and acquired skills to help others and make a difference.
When searching for your nonprofit to serve, look for bold leadership, steady stewardship, and lots of passion in their members and leadership. Passion after all, is the icing on the cake! Say yes, eat the cake, and go for it!
Download this Culture of Philanthropy Checklist loaded with action tips to determine if your nonprofit has a culture of philanthropy in place and ways to get started creating one.
Christal M. Cherry, The Board Pro, worked for 23 years as a nonprofit fundraiser serving higher education institutions, seminaries, and human service organizations. Now a nonprofit board consultant, she equips and empowers boards to support their missions and change the world. Her services as Principal and CEO of the Board Pro, include recruitment, governance, fundraising, conflict resolution, diversity, equity, inclusion, access, and belonging. Christal earned a MA in Counseling from Hampton University, a BA in Liberal Arts from Hofstra University, and professional development certifications in nonprofit leadership, social media fundraising, and nonprofit management. She is a contributing author to Collecting Courage, a collection of first-person narratives from Black fundraisers documenting their experiences with racism in the nonprofit sector. In 2021, Christal authored her first children’s book, Mac and Cheez, Being Different is Okay which is available on Amazon.