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Blog > How to be the most effective board member you can be

How to be the most effective board member you can be

posted on 9:31 AM, August 24, 2016
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There are so many good reasons to join a non-profit board. You’ll meet great people and expand your sphere of influence; increase your financial literacy; learn how to run an effective meeting.; improve the look of your CV You’ll even have a great excuse to skip the gym! (though you should really go to the gym ☺) Most importantly, you will be rewarded by the knowledge that you are making a solid difference in your community.

Making that solid difference, however, is harder than it looks. Being an effective board member is a complex endeavour. Here are some tips to help you become more effective:

1. Get to know the organization

Learn about the organization before you join the board. Things you should know include:

  • mission statement
  • financial status
  • board structure
  • liability insurance

2. Avoid conflicts of interest

If a contract exists from which you could gain financially or personally, or even if the perception exists that you could gain from it, then you must disclose everything and abstain from any discussion or vote on the issue. Make sure your abstention is noted in the meeting minutes.

3. Support the board's final decisions

Your job as a board member is to represent your organization to the public. In board meetings, you need to speak up if you disagree with something. However, if the board votes another way, then you need to support that decision outside the board room.

4. Learn how to read financial statements

You don’t need to get an accounting degree to join a board, but you should take the time to learn how to understand the financial statements which are presented to you in board meetings. If you don’t understand something, then ask!

5. Take advantage of training and development opportunities

There is a lot to know about being an effective board member. You need to know how to make the best contribution you are able to make. You also need to understand what liabilities board members assume and how to protect yourself. Volunteer Ottawa has an excellent course to get you started with being an effective board members. Come learn how to make a solid difference in your community!

Volunteer Ottawa’s two-Board 101 hour workshop offers a first look at becoming a board member for a charity or non-profit organization.  The workshop is the first of three which examine the roles and responsibilities of board members and the characteristics of effective boards. This workshop invites you to a conversation about what is asked of you as a board member.  Participants will develop confidence and understand how they can make an effective contribution to the board of an organization. Click here for more information, and to register.