Nonprofit board involvement is like a dance.
Just like the perfect dance shoe, cycling shoe, or golf shoe, the trick is to find a fit within a not-for-profit board that is a natural extension of what you do well.
When it comes to being a not-for-profit board member, it’s not enough to just feel passionate about a cause.
The fact is that you are serving as an extension of what you do best, and if that is not good enough or not needed, accept it and find another way to serve.
Recently, a friend pulled me aside and asked if I knew of any open community board positions. I had written about the importance of civic engagement in the past, and he thought that I might have some good ideas.
He is a bank executive who knows his talents and interests well. He’s a Harvard graduate with time and talent to lend. Also, there were expectations from his employer to be civically involved.
But the truth was, he was not going to be a passive board member.
He wanted a place where he could make a difference, and he was finding that this was a tall order.
When this executive and I discussed his interests and talents, it became clear that instead of thinking broadly about issues or the nonprofit he should get involved in, he should be researching and giving thought to the type of leader he would best build a relationship with.
This executive has a talent for getting into the weeds of an issue – for examining the ugly issues no one wants to deal with, bringing them to a surface, and grinding away at them until there is resolution. He has no problem with speaking the truth to power. And his integrity is without question. We decided he needed to find an executive director who wanted someone to roll up their sleeves and provide leadership as a supportive wingman.
A few years ago, I created TurtleTank. It was a website where someone could answer a few questions about their time, talent, and treasures and get matched with an available not-for-profit board position or government appointment.