Service with a smile: Making the most of your nonprofit board experience

Serving on the board of directors of your favorite nonprofit organization is a great way to celebrate the cause you love the most and share the gift of your leadership. But is a stint on a board of directors the right move for you?  It depends. 

Here are three factors you can evaluate to make the decision easier when you are weighing "to serve or not to serve."

First, be honest with yourself about what you think the nonprofit organization wants from you. Is your perspective valuable because you've been personally served by the organization? Is your name well-recognized in the community, making you a magnet for the charity's positive public relations? Does the charity want your money--or want you to ask your friends for money? If in doubt, ask. Having an open conversation with the charity's executive director will help you get clarity about what's expected of you.

Second, consider what you want for yourself. Are you interested in getting to know the other people on the board? Do you want to help improve the charity's financial situation and governance? Are you devoted to the charity and want to give back? There are no wrong answers, but knowing what you want is a key part of ensuring a mutually beneficial experience.

Third, remember that the most important part of serving on a board is showing up. The charity is counting on your smart, objective voice in the board meetings, asking constructive questions and ensuring that the public's trust in the charity is maintained. Before saying yes, be sure to find out when the meetings are scheduled. Most boards of directors meet at a pre-set date and time several times throughout the year. If you can't make the meetings, you and the charity are both better served by your declining the invitation to serve.

Most of all, do what you love. Whether it's serving on a board, recycling, attending events, giving money, or something else, make sure you like doing it. Doing good, your way, is the best move for you and for your community.