Joining a board of directors? It means you’re taking on a significant role in helping an organization succeed, potentially advancing your career in a big way.
However, getting there means making sure you have the best possible chance of being selected. It requires a significant amount of preparation. Timing matters, too. It’s important to be discerning and submit for open board positions that align with your skills and interests.
Here’s an overview of what being a board member typically looks like, what current directors are likely to be seeking when they recruit board members, and what to expect overall when seeking corporate board membership.
What is a Board of Directors?
An organization’s board of directors is the group of individuals that is responsible for running a business, nonprofit, or other organization. They make most types of decisions for the business and communicate with shareholders to best represent them.
Most boards consist of a minimum of four directors, including a corporate director, who are elected or appointed by shareholders or other board members. Boards can have significantly more members.
These boards play an important role in determining the organization’s mission and goals, as well as identifying specific steps that can help the organization move toward accomplishing them.
How to Become a Board Member
Making sure you are as prepared as possible is key when it comes to helping current board members see you as the best possible candidate for the position you seek. Putting several months or years into building your skills, experience, connections, and reputation before applying can showcase your commitment to contributing to your board and making your organization the best it can be.
Here are 6 of the most important things to consider if you are thinking about becoming a board member:
1. Identify Your Interests and Skills
Determining how you can best serve the organization starts with considering your top interests and identifying your strongest skills. This process can help you determine which positions you might be best at and personally enjoy the most, as well as which roles may best match your skill set and allow you to contribute the most to your organization.
2. Research and Network
Once you have an idea of what type of position might be the best fit for you, learning as much as you can about how to prepare for and effectively serve in that role is an important step. It helps you know what to expect if you decide to move forward in the process.
Researching the typical duties, minimum qualifications, and overall expectations of the positions you’re interested in can help you determine which is the best fit for you, and getting to know as many current board members and other leaders in your industry as you can can help you form the connections you need to be chosen for a position and serve as an effective leader.
3. Build Relevant Experience
The current board needs to make sure prospective members have the experience needed to successfully engage board members and lead the organization. While board members do not necessarily need to be the most experienced of members, you’ll need to demonstrate that you have worked in your field long enough to build an in-depth understanding of what it takes to help a business in your industry succeed.
Participating in workshops or conferences, earning additional certifications or degrees, and holding other leadership positions at lower levels can help you demonstrate a long history of dedication to your organization and your field.
4. Identify Open Positions
Many aspiring board members spend several months or years improving their skills, networking, and other forms of personal development before seeking a position. Putting as much effort as you need to into making sure you are as prepared as possible can significantly boost your likelihood of being selected. Once you’ve determined your experience and expertise make you qualified and ready to compete for a board position, you can start the process of formally seeking positions and applying.
Open positions within the board of your current organization often provide the best opportunities because the directors who will be making decisions are familiar with your past work and commitment to helping it succeed. Talking with current board members can also help you identify board seats that may be about to become vacant, and being among the first to show interest in positions that are not yet being advertised can increase your chances of being selected.
You may also find success searching for positions in similar businesses that are looking to bring in new board members from outside their organization if your own does not have any available. Generally though, most organizations prefer to source board members and other leaders internally to ensure they are highly familiar with the organization and its goals.
5. Participate in the Interview and Selection Process
One or more rounds of board member interview questions play an important role in the process of selecting new corporate board members. These interviews give the board’s top decision-makers a chance to learn about prospective board member candidates beyond the written responses on their initial applications.
Some boards may invite all applicants to participate in interviews, while others may limit this step to a few top candidates. This may also depend on the number of individuals that apply for a particular position.
The selection process may also include networking events, mock meetings, sample projects, and other opportunities to learn more about how each candidate is likely to handle the position if they are selected. Being punctual and putting maximum effort into these activities is a must.
Once the formal selection process has been completed, members of the board and other leaders of your organization will discuss each applicant’s strengths and any potential concerns they may have to determine who is the best fit for each open position before electing or appointing new board members.
6. Attend Board Orientation and Training
Most boards start with new board member orientation, which helps everyone learn more about what is expected of each board member. These introductory programs dig deeply into your organization’s mission, goals, policies, and procedures, as well as topics such as do board members get paid.. They also help create a smooth transition process for new board members, and reduce the impact that losing reliable former board members can have on your organization.
OnBoard Powers Effective Board Members
Keeping track of who is seeking each board position and their qualifications can help you make the best possible decisions for your board of directors and the rest of your organization.
OnBoard is meeting software for board directors and trustees. It provides a wide range of options for storing details that can be used to evaluate board candidates, as well as more effectively manage nearly every aspect of your board’s everyday operations.
Other helpful features include options for creating, sharing, and storing agendas and minutes; messaging other board members without the potential security concerns of email or social media; information about each board member’s certifications and professional development; and other tools that allow your organization to manage everything it needs to function in one place.
Use OnBoard to immediately make your board meetings more effective. Our free board meeting minutes template helps you condense hours of meeting notes into concisely summarized minutes.
About The Author
- Adam Wire is a Content Marketing Manager at OnBoard who joined the company in 2021. A Ball State University graduate, Adam worked in various content marketing roles at Angi, USA Football, and Adult & Child Health following a 12-year career in newspapers. His favorite part of the job is problem-solving and helping teammates achieve their goals. He lives in Indianapolis with his wife and two dogs. He’s an avid sports fan and foodie who also enjoys lawn and yard work and running.
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