Should I Say Yes And Join A Nonprofit Board?

I’ve been approached to join a board.

It’s a non-profit 501(c)3 I already give money to on a monthly basis.

We share similar values and I strongly believe in its mission.

I’ve also known the founder for 5 years and believe in the company’s regional presence in the San Francisco Bay area.

But before I jump in and say yes I must consider whether it’s the right fit at the right time for me. In fact it may pose a danger to the health of my business.

Here’s why…

  • How much time would a board position take away from building my core business?
  • How much money will I be required to donate above and beyond what I already do that in fact I should be investing into growing my core business?

I must be aware of my motivation for saying yes. Time and money are two of the most precious assets I have and I must gauge whether I should be investing them into building my business. There’s no doubt I can do more good by having my business running on all cylinders.

How could I benefit as a board member?

  • I get immediate access to a new powerful network – mission-based work is passionate work and hence relationships are sticky
  • It provides authority that I’m a subject matter expert in demand
  • I can see big impact in my actions and can communicate this to my network
  • I can be part of a high performing team making big decisions
  • I get access to a new world
  • Fun

How does the non-profit benefit from its board?

  • As the CEO you have immediately acquired a team of inside mentors
  • The board will think through the critical questions about growth and scale with you
  • It will help you resolve problems
  • The board will help raise funding and resources by tapping its network
  • It will open doors for you

A great board is like rocket fuel — a bad board will hold you back.

Lots to think through.

Here are more details about boards…

Recruitment of a board member can take 6-12 months.

The responsibilities of a governing board include:

  • Governance, legal and financial oversight
  • Strategy – where is the company going, and how will it get there (scaling and replicating)
  • Financial – set the expectation upfront that the board will raise funds. There should be no minimum commitment, but each member must be comfortable with the amount he or she is giving. The non-profit should represent one of the most important areas of giving.

Structure and size:

They may vary depending on the size of the company. A good start up board will have 7-9 members as is common at a for-profit company.

As the company’s size increases so can the size of the board and the number of board committees, which include the audit committee, the compensation committee, etc.

The time commitment of a board member is typically around 3 hours per month


The board is made up of all subject matter experts – medical/clinical, strategy/scale, finance, marketing/communications, general non-profit management, etc.

Time commitment:

Meetings will be held once every 2-2 ½ months. In person, meetings are best at cultivating a team. Frequently board retreats will be held once per year for 1-2 days.

Here are links to websites that can help you find non-profit board positions:

BoardsourceBoard Prospects, and LinkedIn For Good.


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