What about the Board? Questions to ask in your job interview
Nonprofit boards have legal and fiduciary responsibilities set forth by the federal government codes that define nonprofits. How these responsibilities are realized runs the gamut. The National Council of Nonprofits created Board Roles and Responsibilities, this is a good resource for you if you want to know more about nonprofit boards. This article will focus on what you should be looking for and asking to understand how the nonprofit board practically functions at your potential future employer.
Fundraising for a nonprofit is much more successful when the board is engaged. Here are some questions you can ask during the interview process to understand how the board at a specific nonprofit is advancing the mission.
- How does the board support the fundraising efforts?
- How does the board interact with staff?
- Are there any key board members I will work with in this role?
- How does the organization rely on the board?
You can use one or all of these questions to get a handle on the organization’s culture. Strong board leadership is a good indicator. Another good indicator is when the staff can explain that the board is in transition. This often means the board has done the necessary self-reflection to determine the composition of the board needs to change to achieve the mission. This aligns with a concept many study in business school, Do we have the right people in the right seats? Ellen Archer explained in episode 7 that when she joined a nonprofit board they ceased two opportunities. First, they actively recruited board members with skills in fundraising, communications and leadership who represented a diverse pool relative to age, gender, profession, and race. Second, the board required sort of a recalibration and that bringing in more senior executives would help the executive director meet the goals for the organization.
In your search for an ideal organization, beware of a “working board” that is focused exclusively on program delivery and not working to elevate the organization’s stature within the community. Notice if the board is very small or if the board hasn’t welcomed new board members in the last 5 years. These are signs the organization may be set in their ways and not open to new ideas.
Ultimately, as you consider a job opportunity with a nonprofit, you want to discern if the current board and their practices are steering the organization in the right direction or if the board has become a functional hurdle to the organization.