Be Appointed to a Board of Directors
A board of directors comprises a handful of individuals who oversee the operations and business decisions of company, nonprofit organization, or government agency. If you’d like to serve on a board, you’ll need to have business experience and the ability to contribute to the company’s financial success. Before seeking appointment on a board of directors, you should already be familiar with the type of business you plan to work in, and begin to develop professional relationships with other board members.
Learning About the Company
- Decide which type of board you would like to serve on. Both for-profit and nonprofit companies have boards of directors. While it may be easier to find a board seat with a nonprofit, don’t assume that this position will make it easier for you to find a seat on a for-profit board in the future.
- If the company is publicly traded, members of the board of directors are elected by shareholders, which often includes the company’s founder, if the business is still in an early stage. board members can often be nominated for the position by an existing board member. For nonprofits and government agencies, board members may be directly appointed by the CEO or by a government authority (for example, a member of the Cabinet).
- Publicly traded companies often have large boards, while private companies (often younger or smaller businesses) will have fewer directors.
- While large, publicly traded companies often pay their directors large salaries (or with generous stock options), smaller companies or nonprofits may give directors much smaller salaries.
- Investigate board openings in an industry you’re familiar with. Unless you already know the exact company to which you plan to ask for a board appointment, you’ll need to search for companies that would potentially welcome you to their board. The best place to begin your search is online. Check the directories of websites that will provide you with lists of boards that are looking for new directors.
- Check websites including: BoardnetUSA, Volunteermatch, and Idealist for nonprofit board openings.
- Use personal contacts that you already have to enhance your search. For example, business professors, former employers, or startup CEOs will be valuable advisors as you look for a potential Board to work on.
- Choose a company to which you have something to offer. In order to be considered as a viable candidate for a board of directors, you’ll need to offer expertise and insight to the board. A successful board will be assembles of diverse members, each with their own strength.
By selecting a company which you can directly benefit, you’ll improve your chances of an appointment.
- Many nonprofits and companies will be looking for an individual with financial experience, or a degree in finances. Corporate social-media experience is also currently in high demand.
- Talk with a current director to see if you have credentials that the board is looking for.
- Use your website findings to tailor your company search. The boards looking for new directors should make clear online which credentials they’re looking for.
- Research current board members. Looking into the existing directors—on a single board or across several—will give you a glimpse of what degrees, experience, and credentials are common among directors.
Look to see:
- If there are any gaps in the skills and qualifications of the current directors.
- If any directors are approaching retirement.
- If you could network with any of the directors, through mutual friends, a work associate, or other means.
Forming Personal Connections
- Meet with existing board members. You’ll be far more likely to earn a board appointment if you have a professional and personal relationship with an existing director. Find out who is already on the board of directors, and arrange a meeting with one of these people. A face-to-face meeting will allow you to directly state your case for an appointment as a director.
- Use your professional network to connect you with directors on boards you’d like to serve on. Perhaps you already know someone who knows someone who knows one of these people.
- When you speak to a board member, say something like, “We know each other through Sally - she's my coworker. I’m interested in serving on a board of directors, and would like to learn about your board.”
- If you’d like to be more direct, say, “I’m interested in serving on your board of directors. How can I pursue this opportunity and show my qualifications?”
- Find out detailed information about the board and company. This will help you assess how you can present yourself and your skillset to maximize your appeal to the other directors. Ask for information regarding the current number of directors, how often new board members are brought on board, and the management style of the board.
- Invite one of the directors out to lunch and ask if they’re willing to share information about the company. Make it clear that you’re interested in serving as a director, and would like some information concerning their experience serving on the board.
- When you meet, say something like, “I’m looking for a board position to serve on, and your organization intrigued me. Do you know if the organization is interested in taking on a new board member?”
- Attend networking events. If you’re interested in making yourself available to a number of board positions at once, consider attending an event by the National Association of Corporate Directors. Events are open to members of the public, and you may be able to meet with (or learn about) multiple board members on a variety of board types.
- State why you would be a valuable member of the board. Especially if you do not already have a professional relationship with one of the directors, you’ll need to make the case for yourself. Explain what you can bring to offer the current board.
- If the company serves a large portion of the country, you may wish to set yourself up as a regional representative, or a representative of a community that is not currently represented on the board. Say something like, “Although you do a lot of business in the south, I notice none of your directors are from there. I’ve lived in Alabama my whole life, and could help grow your business in that region.”
Asking for a Board Position
- Do not rely on a search firm to find you a director position. Search firms are companies that find directors to serve on specific boards. While their services sometimes work in the other direction as well—finding a board for potential first-time directors—this approach is less common.
- You may get lucky with a search firm, so it’s not necessarily a bad idea to send your CV to one or two. Just don’t view this option as a guarantee to find you a board.
- Ask for an appointment as a board member. You should present yourself as a potential Director to the company’s CEO or an existing board member. You’ll need to be able to show that you can help the company generate profit, and that you have strong oversight and management skills.
Also be prepared to speak to your business experience.
- When asking for an appointment, say something like: “If you have any room on the board, I’d like to serve as one of the directors. I care about the mission of the organization, and think that my skills and experience will make me valuable.”
- Prepare your CV in anticipation of a meeting or interview. Tailor your resume so you can present yourself as a strong candidate for the specific board you would like to serve on. Highlight your leadership experience and your commitment to developing whatever industry or community the business or nonprofit works in.
- Use your CV to present your strengths and qualifications in areas where other directors may be less qualified. This will indicate that you will be valuable to the board, and not duplicate the skills of an existing board member.
- Explain your potential value as a director. CEOs and shareholders will be looking for directors to enhance the existing board, and who can bring necessary skills to the table. Directors need to have professional diversity, so you can establish yourself as an expert in a field that will be helpful to the board.
Say something like:
- “I believe I would play a valuable role on your board, since I have had years of experience working in [marketing / sales / finance / human resources].”
- “Since you don’t currently have a director who’s experienced with business law, I would be a valuable addition to the board, because I can fill that gap.”
- The more you know before beginning to contact people, the better. You want to put yourself in a position where it becomes obvious that you are the right person for the job.
- Spend time thinking about what you have to offer this company. Be sure to let your contact(s) know how you can be of service and what unique talents you can bring to the table.
- Choose a Suitable Job Position
- Respond to a Job Performance Review
- Become Highly Motivated for Your Job
- Train Someone to Do Your Job
- Find a Job if You Have a Disability