No matter where you are in your career climb, you’ll likely decide at some point to add volunteer work to your resume. It starts with signing up as a committee member, a relatively easy task until you begin speaking up and, um, actually contributing.
The next thing you know you’re asked to chair that group. Then watch out. In the blink of an eye you’re elevated to the board. There are tons of volunteer associations on this planet, and each and every one is constantly on the lookout for new members. This is true especially if you’re enthusiastic and willing to make meaningful contributions.
What can you expect once you’ve joined a board? Here are a few tips for first-time members:
- Do your homework on what this particular board stands for/against. Don’t accept a position without knowing what you’re getting into. Research what, if any, meaningful causes previous boards have championed, and make sure to check out the organization’s industry reputation to assure it aligns with your own beliefs.
- Get to know other board members. You’ll meet often, share conference calls, schedules and potential trips as well as teamwork. It’s important to know a bit about the other team members before you commit.
- Request a copy of that board’s rule book. New members should receive one as standard operating procedure, but that’s not always the case. If it contains nothing concrete in writing about rules and procedures, beware. Every well-managed board should have written protocols for getting items on the agenda, voting, vendor dealings, sponsor opportunities and so much more.
- Observe before you express opinions or try to lead. You need not be silent, but you should think before you speak. Most boards are governed formally by Robert’s Rules of Order and, like it or not, you need to respect some semblance of order and bow to the expertise of more experienced board members. If you stick with it and it’s meant to be, your day will come.
- Ask questions, lots of them. Don’t just accept things “because they’ve always been done that way.” Respect the past but proceed gently into the future, always armed with complete information.
- Find a project you can embrace and take ownership when you’re comfortable. This most likely won’t happen at your first meeting, but you’ll know when the time is right. Then you’ll wrap your arms around a task suited for you, your time commitment and your values.
What do you do before deciding to join a board of directors? Please share your tips and comments below.