Although important, in many cases sitting on the board of a nonprofit can be somewhat discouraging to those who possess a business background especially when you consider the slow to moderate pace with which changes occur. Many people would rather resign and those who stay on will do so quietly in an effort to avoid making waves with others who clearly have the best interests of the organization and its mission at heart even if it may not always appear that way to you.
Still, it can be frustrating and requires a certain amount of fortitude and skill for those individuals who want to make a positive difference and help transform an organization.
Here then are some of the skills necessary for those who want to have a positive influence and lead organizations to new heights:
Know everything about the mission
Having experience in a previous job or serving as a board member of a similar organization can be a great help in understanding inherent challenges. Being able to talk sensibly about the mission and ask intelligent questions of experts in the field can also help influence decisions and sway opinion with necessary facts and not just conjecture.
Be proactive in everything you do.
If you want to have influence you must be seen and heard. Attendance at board and committee meetings is paramount. Be sure to ask perceptive questions and make an effort to garner the respect from peers not only from the inside but outside as well. Always be amenable and respond well to things that are asked of you and remember, it’s never a bad idea to have a friendly but respectful relationship with the CEO.
Be flexible and patient
Board rotation of personnel happens a lot and you need to be prepared to work with whoever is there to convince them change is in the best interest of the nonprofit clients. At the same time, you must have a willingness to change your position especially if outside influences or circumstances warrant it.
Possess exemplary people skills
You’ll need to learn how and why some react a certain way to the changes you’re lobbying to make. These will undoubtedly come from all directions and include board members, management staff and benefactors.
Be precise with your message
Be consistent in what your message of change is all about. Try and stay focused, concise and speak in language that people can understand. Try to avoid being too strong and high-handed as voice championing change.
Make the time
Most board members at nonprofits are volunteers who have other jobs and responsibilities that require time and attention. Being a board member will also require a certain commitment and time for any number of activities including:
- Chairmanship of a board committee
- Research efforts for the organization
- Specialized training when necessary
- Constant communicating and delegating responsibilities
- Monitoring for impediments to change
Not all nonprofit board members will have or be required to have the skills outlined above but those who do will have a better chance of affecting change in a positive way at the nonprofit board on which they sit.
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