“You’re Breathing Aren’t You?” Not a Compelling Reason to Join a NFP Board


“But the biggest thing I’ve learnt is to ask the right questions before you agree to a gig like this!”
“But the biggest thing I’ve learnt is to ask the right questions before you agree to a gig like this!”


By Chris Gandy

I had noticed on Jason’s social media posts that he had joined a not for profit board for the first time. When I ran into him recently in town I asked him how the new board role was going?

“Well I am learning an awful lot”, he said. “But the biggest thing I’ve learnt is to ask the right questions before you agree to a gig like this!”

He went on to explain that he ended up on the board through an all too familiar recruitment method. A friend (who is the Chairman of this particular Board) texted him saying they were short on numbers and he was a “perfect fit” to help them out.

When Jason responded by asking:

“What makes me a perfect fit?”

He received this response:

“Your breathing aren’t you”

We kept chatting and I asked him what were the questions he thought he should have asked? He said he was pressed for time but would email me his list of questions.

He did and here they are:

  • Can I have a copy of the CEO’s CV and most recent performance review? Is there a Succession Plan to replace this person?
  • What is the profile of the current Board? Why are you looking for new members?
  • Can I see a current set of financials including P&L, budgets and cash flow forecasts.
  • What revenue streams does the organisation rely on? How secure are these and what are the plans to diversify?
  • Can I tour visit the organisation’s facilities. Can I see some programs in action?
  • Is there any litigation pending against the organisation?
  • How will my skills benefit the organisation?

Jason concluded his email this way:

“I am not saying I still wouldn’t have joined the Board if I had asked and received answers to these questions. But this information would have certainly smoothed my transition onto the Board and enabled me to contribute far more quickly. Also, I have presented this list to the Chairman and fellow board members and suggested that these areas may be ones to concentrate on – not only to attract new, capable Board members but for the organisations well-being.”

What questions do you ask before agreeing to join a not for profit Board?

Chris is the Principal and Managing Director at Cause & Effective. Our cause is to help cause-based organisations effectively deliver on theirs.


About B-Cause

B-Cause is published by Cause and Effective. We help good causes find and attract effective leaders.

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