As we head into recruitment season for the YES Columbus Executive Board, I can’t help but get excited by the thought of new perspectives and fresh talent joining our cause in 2021. For me, one of the most fulfilling aspects of my involvement with YES has been getting to work with, and ultimately make friends out of, some of the most amazing professional women in our city.
However, being on a nonprofit board is far more than just a social endeavor. Therefore, I thought it would be helpful to put together a list of some of the most common questions I have received over the years about board leadership. If you are considering applying for one of our open positions, this list should help you determine if you’re up for the challenge and, most importantly, if you’re in it for the right reasons.
1.) First and foremost, make sure you understand the commitment. YES is a working board, which means that our board members are responsible for ideating, planning and executing all of our organization’s initiatives. It can be time-intensive and the term length is for one full calendar year, so that’s something you want to seriously consider before committing. I liken our culture to that of a startup – sometimes our processes are a bit scrappy, and the only thing that keeps us accountable to the mission is each other — but we find ways to get the job done. In the end, this work is incredibly rewarding and the impact we have in the community is unmistakable.
2.) Working boards are a great opportunity to expand your skillset, but know that you’re going to be asked to perform in your role. I am huge advocate of using volunteer opportunities to gain work experience outside of your current repertoire. If you want to go into social media management but you’re an accountant, joining the Communications Committee of a working board can be a great way to get the know-how you’re looking for! With that said, our organization has goals and deadlines we need to meet just like any other. If you join the board knowing you have a learning curve to hurdle at the outset, make sure you head into it with the attitude of a self-starter that’s going to master the requirements of your role pretty quickly so that the organization does not hit any unnecessary speed bumps.
3.) Understand that fundraising is going to be one of your duties. If you’re not comfortable asking people for money, then nonprofit work may not be for you. Nonprofits rely on donations from corporations and individuals to be able to provide their services to the public. Most people have some level of discomfort with this when they join a nonprofit board, but quickly see how eager the community is to support. Plus, being able to say you have “demonstrated fundraising abilities” is an incredibly valuable bullet point for any aspiring professional’s resume.
4.) Know that there are going to be growing pains. The best part about joining a board of strong, professional women is how much you’ll learn from your fellow members. With that said, growing pains are bound to occur. YES! Columbus is still very much in its growth phase, and each year we bring on new members to join our cause. Occasionally, disagreements about our direction and vision occur, and sometimes people are generally on different pages. But that’s okay! When joining a nonprofit board, it’s important to remember that your fellow members are humans too, and are just trying to do their best. Learning how to work with other people is part of the experience, and one that will make you an even better professional (and human) in the end.
5.) Most importantly, make sure you know your “why.” Why do you want to join? Is it for the status of being able to say you’re on a nonprofit board? If so, that probably won’t turn out well for you or the organization. The most effective board members are ones that join because of their passion. Whether that be a passion for the nonprofits’ mission or a passion to grow professionally, you have to be in it for the right reasons.
What questions do you have about joining a nonprofit board? Shoot me an email at email@example.com. I’d love to chat with you!
Individuals interested in applying for one of our open seats can APPLY HERE.
-Erin Hackett, YES! Columbus President