Serving on a board gives you the opportunity to make a difference, broaden your networks and continue growing your leadership abilities.

When is the right time? Alicia Curtis, 2018 EY Social Entrepreneur of the Year WA, and creator of the Board Ignition online course, gave us her insights on the eight signs that it could be the right time for you to join a NFP Board.

1. You have the time and energy to commit to a board

First things first – do you have the time to truly commit? You don’t want to take on a board role only to be surprised at how much time and effort a board position can take.

So how long do you need? The 2019 NFP Governance Survey, conducted by the Australian Institute of Company Directors recorded that over 50% of board members spend more than two days per month in their position, with 10% spending over eight days per month. Additionally, nine in 10 directors undertook training in relation to their role.

This time could include board meetings, sub-committee meetings, annual strategy sessions, leadership responsibilities, representing the organisation at external events, as well as social activities where you represent the board internally. Ensure you have the time to give!

2. You are ready to work as a team to fulfill company goals

Are you an effective team player who communicates well with others, shows emotional intelligence in the boardroom, and can lead sub-committees? You might want to get some critical feedback and ways to improve before you hit the boardroom.

Boardroom behaviours are so important when you are working in short spaces of time, like board meetings. Leaving egos at the door and working effectively with others (however different to you) is a MUST!

3. You’ve done your due diligence

What does due diligence mean? Simply put, it’s research you do before committing. In a board context, you want to ensure the organisation has the appropriate insurances, has registered with the appropriate bodies, and is financially solvent. Reading the annual report and understanding the brand/history is only the start of your due diligence. You want to make sure the organisation is suitable before signing up as a board director.

4. You understand your responsibilities as a board director

The best board members understand the unique role the board plays – strategy, governance, financial oversight, compliance, risk management, to name a few. You need to have a thorough understanding of what is going on in the organisation and your expected role, without getting involved in the details.

Perhaps you need to educate yourself about the roles of governance before stepping up? Do you understand the difference between the board and management of a community organisation? Are you sure of the liabilities that you take on?

5. You understand the board’s expectations of you

Most boards will have a recruitment process. The position description will outline the key expectations of the role in terms of hours, skills, and knowledge preferred or required and the meeting schedule.

You should explore YOUR expectations as well. Are you looking for a formal board role? Something more relaxed and grassroots? Do you like the excitement of a start-up or are you interested in contributing to a more established organisation?

It’s best to have these conversations before joining any board!

6. You understand trends, challenges and opportunities in the NFP sector

It’s called the third sector for a reason – Not-for-profits are different to the corporate and government sectors! If you have not been involved in the NFP sector, it’s time to do your research!

Reading NFP publications and online blogs and attending conferences and events are good strategies for being an effective board member. Boards are looking for directors who have their finger on the pulse, who can identify the key trends, and translate that back to the organisation.

7. You understand your own value and contribution

It takes a fair amount of self-awareness to understand the value that you provide and more importantly, communicate it in their board resume or at networking events.

Your board value may include your skills and expertise, but it could also include your networks, your lived experience, or your ability to step into leadership roles down the track e.g Sub Committee Chair or Board Secretary.

8. You’ve found an organisation that aligns with your purpose and values

In your search, you will want to do the mission test.  Do you know what your purpose and values are? Do you wholeheartedly believe in the mission of the organisation and picture yourself standing as a proud ambassador for the organisation?

When you find a board and organisation that truly aligns with your own purpose and values, the energy and reward you feel for your contribution will make the time and work all worthwhile!


How did you go? Keen to join a NFP board but don’t know where to start?

Indicate to your networks that you’re actively seeking board roles and join Alicia in the next Board Ignition online course starting in June - designed to fast track your board journey and help you get your first NFP board appointment.

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Things you should know

This article represents opinions and views of the interviewees personal experiences only.  It does not have regard to the situation or needs of any reader and must not be relied upon as advice. It is not intended to imply any recommendation or opinion about a financial product. Before acting on this information, consider its appropriateness to your circumstances. Commonwealth Bank of Australia ABN 48 123 123 124.