In the non-profit world, there is a never-ending cosmic search for the ideal Board member. Sometimes you hit gold and sometimes you can't believe you were so clueless. When I offered to teach a session at the YWCA Tucson’s 26th Annual Women's Leadership Conference about the qualities of a good board member, I thought it would be fun to look at the question from the other side. Rather than look at what non-profits want and need, how about some self evaluation? Do you have what it takes to make a good board member?
What kind of volunteer are you or would you make? Are you shy? Do you need to be the center of attention? Do you like to throw things during meetings? Are you bold or brash?
Years ago I was working for an agency that desperately needed new board members. I went out to lunch with a woman, let's call her Joan, and was blown away by how bright and articulate she was. I asked her to join the board, I figured she'd be great. She was a great person, but she turned out not to be such a good board member. My daughter had a friend who was an inveterate chatterer. My favorite t-shirt that she wore said "Help me, I can't stop talking!" I wanted to have one made for Joan. Consequently, I am a huge fan of organizations that are big enough to try out prospective volunteers on a committee first!
Another board member, we'll call him Sam, never spoke during meetings. He was shy and didn't feel comfortable speaking up. After meetings he'd come up and say "You know... if you tried this it might work." It drove me crazy because here Sam had great solutions but didn't bring them up during the meetings which caused an inordinate amount of work on my part, because we'd then have to redo and re-meet and re-decide. Oy. He became a terrific board member after he felt more comfortable speaking up during board meetings.
Have you ever thought about how you would be as a Board member? Or how you are as a Board or Committee member? Let's have some fun. Fill out the brief survey below and see if you have what it takes. Mind you, this is non-scientific and the lens is my own (albeit with 30 years plus of experience!) Circle one response for each question.
1 -When you are in a group setting do you:
a) Make yourself the center of attention?
b) Encourage everyone to participate in the conversation?
c) Sit quietly and observe what is going on?
d) Wish you could sit in the corner with a book because you are shy?
2 -If a disagreement among peers or friends arises, do you:
a) Get in the middle of the fray and make sure your point is heard?
b) Try and make sure that no other point of view is heard because you know you are right?
c) Avoid confrontation and disagreement all together?
d) Try to make sure that every viewpoint is heard, including your own?
e) Just try to keep the peace, perhaps by suggesting the discussion be postponed?
3- If you don't understand something, do you:
a) Ask for clarification?
b) Wait until after the meeting to prevent calling attention to yourself or be embarrased that you don't know the answer?
c) Offer an opinion even though you don't know what you are talking about?
4 - When in a restaurant and you have to wait forever for your meal, you:
a) Flag the waiter and calmly ask what the status of your order is?
b) Flag the waiter and let them hear your frustration?
c) Not leave a tip?
d) Huff and Puff and blow the whole house down?
5- When receiving an email invitation to a meeting you respond:
a) Within an hour?
b) Within 24 hours?
c) Within a week?
d) Figure folks will be happy if I just show up...
Question 1: 1) 4; 2) 1; 3) 2; 4) 3
Question 2: 1) 2; 2) 4; 3) 4; 4) 1
Question 3: 1) 1; 2) 2; 3) 4
Question 4: 1) 1; 2) 3; 3) 4; 4) 3
Question 5: 1) 1; 2) 2; 3) 3; 4) 4
If you scored 5-10 points you are someone who has great potential as a board member! You speak up, are inclusive and willing to risk. You are also respectful of others.
If you scored 11-15 points you could be a good board member. Perhaps you are initially shy and don't want to speak up, but might if you feel more comfortable. Or you may be a little too outspoken at times, but with coaching might learn to reign it in.
If you scored 16-20 points- perhaps you should consider taking up knitting or golfing... just sayin'....
Stay tuned for my next blog post to see how this all fits together with non-profit volunteering!