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Thinking of Joining a Non-Profit Board?

Gail HunterAbout 20 years ago, when she worked for the Seattle Mariners, Gail Hunter reached out to the YMCA of Greater Seattle about joining its board. “My family had been members forever and it was a big part of my childhood,” says Hunter, now vice president of public affairs and event management for the Golden State Warriors. “I wanted to give back.”

But expanding your network, acquiring new skills or even giving your résumé a boost are all fine reasons for wanting to join a non-profit board, according to Hunter. That is, “as long as you are willing to do the work,” she says. “Organizations need their board members to be committed and active.”

Of course, it’s generally easier to join the boards of startups than large, established organizations, though young groups may also require a lot more of their board members—as well as offer smaller networks and less prestige. Whichever non-profit you choose, Hunter says the next step is to contact the executive director or someone in leadership and express your interest. “You’ll probably then be invited to a fundraiser and successive events and meetings, so you and the organization can see if you’re a good match.”

Partly because of her job, which involves community outreach, Hunter is frequently invited to join boards; she currently sits on those of the Boys and Girls Club of San Francisco and the First Tee of the East Bay. She took time out from her jam-packed schedule to share three more things you should know before joining a board:

#1. It can be like a second job.
“Being on a board is a lot of work. It’s meaningful work, but there is a lot of it. That’s why you should really believe in what the organization is doing or have a passion or deep interest in learning more about it. You should also make sure you like the other board members and staff, because you’ll be working quite a bit with them.”

#2. You’ll need to fundraise.
“Whether it’s soliciting donations, buying a table at an event or selling raffle tickets, there is an expectation of board members that they will contribute financially. If you’re not comfortable asking people for money and your budget is tight, you should consider being a volunteer rather than a board member.”

#3. It’s a great way to round out your life.
“You’ll do things you probably don’t get to do in your daily work. You’ll work with people from a variety of backgrounds. I’ve found serving on boards to be an incredible and enriching experience.”

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