Nonprofit Draft Day

You have what it takes. Be a leader in our community.

Do you think you have to be very wealthy to join a nonprofit board?

kevin dwyer

By Boris Frank

Do you think you have to be very wealthy to join a nonprofit board?

This is a myth.

First of all, nonprofit boards are not like corporate boards.

Second, not all nonprofit boards are alike.

The board of the PAWS Montclair is not looking for the CEO of Citibank to join the board. But UNICEF might be looking for someone in that league. And nonprofits in between are looking for board members that are somewhere in between.

Of course, organizations hope to recruit board members with capacity. But I’d take a passionate board member with connections and a broad sphere of influence any day of the week.


  1. You will learn patience. A group of smart and passionate folks sitting around a conference room table can argue and pontificate. They can say stupid things and make the most brilliant observations. And you will learn patience to wade through it.
  2. You will learn how to ask for money. You did it when you were eight years old carrying that orange UNICEF box but the skill might have lain dormant since. I believe every grownup should know how to ask for money for a worthy cause. I’ll take it one step further. I’d argue that until you ask for money for a worthy cause, you have not reached “grownup” status.
  3. You will have an experience that enriches your resume. OK, this one is a bit selfish but it’s true and it’s OK to be honest about it.
  4. You will meet interesting people who will add to your sphere of influence. People who join boards are a wonderful breed. They have chosen to get off the bench and onto the field. You will be enriched by being in their company.
  5. You will learn to play nicely in the sandbox. This is about diplomacy and making sure that your colleagues get their say (even if you think your comment said it all). The very best board members are teams.
  6. You will learn to appreciate that assets = liabilities. I mean this quite specifically. You will be able to read and understand financial statements and ask a related question or two that actually makes sense.
  7. You will have another excuse to skip the gym. OK, just wanted to be sure you were paying attention.
  8. You will learn how to run an effective meeting of people who don’t work for you. Perhaps you will find yourself as a committee chair. Trust me, you learn a very different set of skills than in a staff meeting. These fellow board members are volunteers, not paid employees, and they may have more business experience than you do.
  9. You will stretch all your intellectual and emotional muscles. Board service at its best allows you to bring your full self to the organization – your emotional connection to the work, your commitment to the overall sector, your life experience, your skills, and the good head you have on your shoulders. There are precious few tables you will sit at that will need all of what you bring the way a nonprofit does.
  10. You will fall more in love with your organization. The closer you are to the work of your nonprofit, the more that work comes to life for you, the more passionate you will become. And you will feel another emotion.