A board of directors serves as an advisory group to a nonprofit or for-profit organization. Serving on a board is a great way for individuals to gain experience, networking opportunities, and in some cases, financial compensation.
People who strive to hold board member positions often look for companies and organizations that align with their passions or could use their specific expertise. Gaining a coveted board seat requires a strategic approach to stand out in a competitive landscape. Follow these 4 steps to secure a board seat.
What is a Board Member?
A board member is an individual elected or appointed to serve on the governing body, or board of directors, of a company or organization. They have a critical role in serving the best interests of the organization, its employees, and its mission.
In addition to fostering internal relationships, they also help build credibility and trust with the public by acting as ambassadors and supporters of the organization. Board members have a strong influence on the decision-making and policy implementation of an organization and must act with loyalty and integrity.
Just like any committee or panel, boards follow a structure. The titles typically include a variation of the following: secretary, chief executive, executive directors, non-executive directors, vice president, and the highest ranking, a board president. Effective boards have an average of nine or 10 members, but there can be more or less depending on the size of the organization.
How to Secure a Position on a Board
Board members have a vital hand in an organization’s future, and serving on a board provides a great building block for a professional’s resume. The following steps outline the process of securing a board seat.
1. Research Potential Board Seats
After expressing interest in becoming a board member, the next step is to research potential board seats, such as board chair, treasurer, or secretary.
Review the responsibilities and expectations associated with each potential board seat, which may differ for nonprofit versus corporate boards. Understand the time commitment, fiduciary duties, legal responsibilities, and any specific expectations set by the organization.
Consider your own skills and interests when deciding what board positions you might pursue. For instance, if you are very organized and enjoy writing, a secretary position may suit you.
2. Build Relevant Experience
Achieving board membership status takes strategy and time. In addition to networking and speaking to current or emeritus board members, you should actively seek experience in your industry of interest. Showing a commitment to the organization’s mission is an admirable attribute that will help you stand out from other candidates.
In addition to cultivating strong leadership skills and acquiring industry knowledge, professionals who seek to be board members should also serve on committees. This will enrich collaborative decision-making skills and help build a professional network. If this is not an option, it’s important to attend industry seminars, workshops, and other continuing education courses.
3. Participate in the Interview Process
Once you find the industry and organization you want to become involved with, the next step is applying and nailing the interview. If you earn an interview, clearly articulate the industry- and position-relevant skills and knowledge you bring to the table.
Culture is another important aspect of effective boards, and being able to demonstrate a team-oriented attitude will ensure the interviewer that you will integrate seamlessly into the new position.
Be prepared to answer scenario questions where you will be expected to display your ability to navigate tough decisions. An example question would be, “How would you handle conflicts or disagreements between board members?” This is a position that requires exhaustive decision-making in an atmosphere where one must remain poised and professional. Displaying an aptitude for reasonable and logical responses is a great quality to possess.
4. Send a Follow-Up
After the interview, send a thank-you email to express gratitude and enthusiasm for the position. Follow-ups are a great way to demonstrate professionalism and leave a lasting impression on the board.
Follow-up emails can consist of additional questions you have or other points that were missed during the interview. A good rule of thumb is to always send a follow-up email within 24 hours of the interview. This establishes rapport and opens a positive line of communication between you and the interviewer.
OnBoard Powers Effective Boards
Hopefully the steps above result in you signing a board member agreement. And once you’re on the board, help them level up with a board portal platform like OnBoard.
OnBoard provides state-of-the-art features that allow board members to share insights, discuss meeting agenda items, and collectively reach decisions. Serving as a single source of truth, the board-specific platform provides a protected, unified system of record that replaces emails, text messages, attachments, and other channels for streamlined communication and enhanced efficiency.
Download OnBoard’s free board meeting minutes template for an example of how the best boards write their minutes to accurately and legally reflect what occurred during the board meeting.
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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