Being on a Non-Profit Board: “Give, Get or Work”

Like me, you probably serve on a few non-profit boards. Giving of yourself can be very rewarding, but sometimes frustrating in the non-profit arena. A key difference between your business and the non-profit is that when you serve a client, the profits that are subsequently generated increase resources. When the non-profit serves a client, resources typically are consumed and must be replenished by outside sources.

When I took my first non-profit board seat many years ago, I thought I was there to share my insight and knowledge ;).  I slowly learned that guidance, strategy and the fiduciary duty are important, but there are three critical roles that need played. You either:

Give Money, Raise Money and/or Do Critical Work

In a new or under capitalized non-profit these areas are magnified. As you look at your board make up, slot all the members (including yourself) into each category. My guess is that there is some dead wood who do none of the three. Their main job is to “pontificate”. They need to go unless their insights rival Peter Drucker’s. If you are lucky, you have an even mix of all three areas. If you are really lucky, you have a few superstars who fall into 2 or 3 of the categories.

Look for balance in the board makeup. Too many of one or not enough of any of the three board member types can lead to problems. Too many pontificators will lead to failure and ruin.

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