Should you join a non profit board?

Non profit invitation: turn on that personal station WIIFM and decide for yourself

By Joseph John

non profit boardYou’ve had your interview for the board, and during the process you most likely have conducted your personal due diligence on the non profit organization. That due diligence includes items such as the organization’s impact on the community, programs, finances, structure of the board, bylaws, fund raising, and most importantly, board member responsibilities.

And now? Well, now you’ve just been asked to join the non profit organization and become a board member. You’re flattered and ready to join. But before you say “yes,” you should turn on a famous radio station: WIIFM (what’s in it for me).

Yes, even though you probably asked great questions about the non profit organization and got the answers you were seeking, you really do need to switch the dial to WIIFM — it’s a station only YOU can tune into.

Now, before you get upset at me that I’m condoning ego trips and major league boosts to your resume, let me explain why WIIFM is not a negative. It can be a helpful station that filters out all of the personal traits that are counter to altruism.

Just What’s In It For Me to become a board member?  Begin with truthful responses, so begin with the most basic one: Do I want recognition, or do I really want to serve and give back to the community? (egoism versus altruism).

O.K. If you can get past that first set of questions, here are some other questions to consider (not in any specific order). And by the way, as you read each question, remember Socrates’ famous words — “know thyself:”

  1. Can serving on this non profit board enrich my life while developing passion for the organization’s cause?
  2. Can I grow as a board member and add value to the board?
  3. Can I move out of my “comfort zone” and learn new skills?
  4. Can I become a valuable asset to the community?
  5. Can I place the non profit organization’s interests above my own and serve the organization’s needs?
  6. Can I network with those like me who are serving, to broaden my horizons and sharpen my people skills?
  7. Can I learn to “play nice” and become a TEAM player with a group of people who also are contributing their free time to serve?
  8. Can I make a difference?
  9. Can I commit to self-improvement while helping to improve the non profit organization?
  10. Can I be empathetic, accountable, and ethical?


The preceding questions, not all-inclusive, comprise a WIIFM exercise NOT designed to assess potential materialistic or power gains. The true nature of the exercise is to determine if you can serve an organization that needs you and one where you cannot nor will expect payback — other than the satisfaction of serving others.

I asked an associate of mine to read this article before posting. After reading it, he told me that he was creating a rating scale of 1-5 for the WIIFM questions — just so he could re-assess his commitment to the organization(s) he serves. What a GREAT idea.

So if you’re approached to serve on a non profit board, proceed with the necessary due diligence, ask the questions you need to ask about them, and then step back, turn on WIIFM, and listen to yourself.

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