As the owner of NPI Technology Management, a small business in Vermont, I have my hands full running the company but I also have carved out time to serve on non-profit boards. Currently I am President of the Board of Local Motion, a Vermont statewide nonprofit advocate for walkable and bikeable communities. I believe walking and biking make Vermont communities better and stronger, and am excited to be part of an organization that does substantial work to improve our state.
Many people already volunteer their time to better our communities in a variety of ways. By taking the next step of serving on a Board you leverage your organizational and financial knowledge while having the privilege of helping shape the organization’s structure, mission and budget.
I’d like to offer some thoughts and encouragement for other business owners considering membership on a non-profit Board.
Follow your passion:
The time you spend on a Board will be most rewarding if you are excited and motivated by the mission of the organization. In my case, my family walks and bikes to work and school (and around town) as much as possible, including commuting on studded bicycle (and unicycle!) tires during the winter. Our family weekends and vacations often involve biking and walking, and many years ago, I operated a bike repair shop (the remains of which still service our family’s small fleet of bikes). Your passion will be your own, of course; choosing an organization that matches it will mean you are surrounded on the Board by like-minded people.
Working with an ongoing program, one that will last years into the future, allows you to leave a legacy around a cause you are passionate about.
Consider the commitment:
Boards fall onto a spectrum between “working” and “strategic.” In a larger organization, more paid staff support will be available to the Board. In smaller, leaner organizations, board members organize much of their own board work, and in very small organizations, Boards do staff work as unpaid volunteers. When considering joining a Board, understand what type it is and the amount of work Board members typically perform.
Once on a Board, modulate your effort in a realistic way. Consider whether at any given time you can take on committee membership, special projects or officer positions in the light of family and business commitments. Choose those things you can accomplish in a timely and helpful way.
Staff and other Board members will be very appreciative of however much time you are able to put in – they know that we are all volunteers, and are grateful for your service!
Be prepared to increase your financial support and to assist in fundraising efforts. Everyone’s capacity differs; consider putting the organization in the top 3 of your priorities for financial giving.
Benefit from your service:
While you will serve on a Board to benefit your community, you will benefit as well, by expanding your professional network, increasing your credibility in the business and wider community and by developing skills that translate to more effective operation of your business.
Often overlooked – serving on a board is fun! As much as I enjoy my business, the time I spend interacting with Local Motion staff, board members and supporters is the most fun part of my day!