How to get on a Non Profit Board – Career Series


Welcome to the first installment in Core Executive’s Core Purpose Career series, born out of the belief that people have long-term life and career goals bigger than their current 9-5 job. This series is meant to complement your career search when you are also asking “What is your Why?”

Non-profit boards are often looking for volunteers with connections and experience.

Why should you consider applying to a non-profit board?

While it can be an excellent addition to your career and resume, as well as personal growth, it’s essential to find an organization that aligns with your values and personal interests. The non-profit you volunteer for needs to be something you really care about so that you can do the best work.

How to get started?

Volunteer for the Organization
Start out spending time as a volunteer for your target organization. Engage with the people that the organization serves. You will benefit by understanding how the organization works from a volunteer’s perspective.

After finding out if this is an organization you can get behind, get involved in ‘committee’ work. Volunteer on any of the variety of committees that make the organization run (typically made up of fundraising, finance, or marketing). Each committee is probably overseen by a Director. You will benefit by making contacts with existing Directors and members. If you go on to become a Director, chances are you will also be required to become a committee chairperson, this will let you see how it’s done before jumping in with both feet.

Since this is a non-profit board keep in mind that Fundraising is a skill set essential to every non-profit Board. If you have experience with fundraising for your chosen cause it will increase your credibility.

Offer to Take Meeting Notes
According to Greg Vermeulen, who is a successful business owner and investor (He founded and grew Echinus Inc. into a global energy consulting company, and is the founding director and CEO of Leaders For Non Profits (L4NP). Greg serves on a number of corporate and volunteer boards where he has direct experience creating financially sustainable enterprises in public, private, and non-profit sectors.) in his article “How to Get on a Non-Profit Board” for the Huffington Post “If you want to participate on a Board, or on a committee right away, simply offer to take meeting notes. This is usually a task for the Secretary, however, a dedicated minute taker is usually very well received by most non-profits. You aren’t a Director (yet), however, you gain access and build trust very quickly” which will demonstrate your ability to take on a greater leadership role.

Pick Your Organization Wisely
Do your research, and be sure to ask the right questions before signing up. Another great article to assist in researching the board and organization (read this article about 10 Things You Must Ask Before Joining a Board). Not every organization will be the right fit for you.

Fit Your Skills With Their Needs
Just like you found a great career match for your skill set with your employer, Boards have defined roles for each Director. You will want to make sure what you bring to the table in terms of skills and abilities match the set of responsibilities and skills that are required to succeed on the board. Find out what challenges the Board is facing, and position yourself as someone who can help with the solutions. Most Boards are looking for people with expertise in HR, fundraising, legal, marketing, and finance. These skills are nearly always in high demand.

Let your Excitement Show

Let the organization know that you are passionate about their mission. You aren’t just there to be on a Board, you are there because you believe in the mission and what you can contribute to help the non-profit reach its goals.

There are some great organizations such as the Ontario Non Profit Network that host a job board for all Ontario non-profit jobs. There are also local organizations such as The Pillar Non Profit Network in Southwestern Ontario, which supports more than 610 nonprofits, social enterprises, and social innovators by sharing resources, exchanging knowledge, and creating meaningful connections across the three pillars of nonprofit, business, and government. They have listings of Volunteer opportunities spanning hourly time donations all the way to the Board of Directors and full-time paid positions.

If you follow this advice, you should have no trouble finding an organization that you care about, and getting onto the Board of Directors.