Are you considering becoming a Nonprofit board member? It can become a very interesting and engaging experience in your life and give you a deep sense of fulfillment for your wish to give back to society. It all depends, as economists like to say, on a multitude of factors that you will need to consider and weigh.  

First, you will want to have enough time to attend the regular meetings. While spotless attendance is rare on boards, you will want to keep a good attendance record to fulfill your role and sometimes to remain on it. Attendance frequency depends on the board and is often decided by board members.  

Then, you will need a strong motivation (or several) to become and remain a member. Perhaps you have a skill no one else on the board has. Perhaps you identify with the organization’s mission. Perhaps it fulfills your need to be social within your community. It can be a great way to become integrated into a new community, for example when moving to another country.  

Lastly, you will need to take action to communicate your interest to the organization. For example, to become a board member of the Latin-American Association, you can read the organization’s bylaws to become acquainted with it. Then, you can fill out and submit a new board member application form. Finally, you can sign up for the upcoming extraordinary general assembly meeting.   

Nonprofit boards are different than corporate boards in more than one way. In both, you may be asked to take on a leadership role, but this may take several terms as a board member and is unlikely. It is more likely that you will be asked to step in to support an operational aspect of the organization. For example, in the Latin-American Association board members sometimes form part of project or group work committees.   

Small nonprofits and even medium ones usually have no paid staff and critical functions are often retained by the board and not entirely delegated to committee members. If you determine that board meetings are not what you want to spend your time on, you can always contribute from within a committee and report your work indirectly to the board through the committee leader.   

On the other hand, you may be intrigued to find out how things are run. Most boards run on principles derived from parliamentary democracy and follow known protocols like Robert’s Rules of Order. Remember when Speaker John Bercow went viral on social media for shouting “Order! Order!” at the British Parliament’s House of Commons?  That is the equivalent of a board chair attempting to restore order to a very large and rowdy board. You might never experience this situation, but you can prepare by learning the rules the board abides by during its meetings.  

In Norway, a board’s responsibility is set down by the law. There usually is a source of protocol as well, and finally, there are the unspoken rules. Those can be interesting to learn as part of attending meetings. A board is an exercise in democratic power, and this fascinates many people. Some people are interested in the charismatic leader of the organization, while others are thrilled by seeing the principles of democratic governance in action. The combination may result in good leadership, or it may not, but in either case, you will perceive it during the organization’s meetings and its results. 

While the news regularly portrays the leader’s successes and failures in leading their organization toward its goals, a small nonprofit’s leader and board will likely escape public news coverage and scrutiny. You will need to do your own research and talk to other board members before and after board meetings. It might take attending a few board meetings to get a feel for how things are run and to say your first words as a board member. Receiving encouragement to speak up and coaching on how to apply the rules are signs of a good board. Productive discussions arriving at prompt decisions are another. Respect for all meeting attendees is a critical sign that ensures the organization’s growth and longevity. Joining a board is no less than committing to the exercise of equality and democracy on the scale of your organization. Since civilian participation is necessary to ensure that democracy persists, this may be your opportunity to support it and the nonprofit organization of your choice. 

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