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Leadership Cortland 

Sponsored by the Cortland County Chamber of Commerce and Tompkins Cortland Community College

What is a Board of Directors?

A board of directors is comprised of a group of individuals whose primary responsibility is to act as a governing body, providing guidance and oversight that will ultimately, fulfill the mission of the organization and safeguard its financial longevity. A board of directors achieves this goal by providing their time, talent and treasure. Board members volunteer their time as advocates for the organization by attending events and serving on committees. Members can further the organizations mission by providing their talent through use of specific skills, connections or providing guidance and expertise. Offering treasure comes in the form of making personal contributions and raising funds to ensure the ongoing success of the organization. Board members are true champions for the organization, furthering its mission and securing a healthy financial future through stewardship, fundraising and responsible management of resources.

Who should serve on a board?

Serving on a board of directors is a commitment. A successful board will contain members who are heavily engaged during meetings as well as events and are viewed as reliable participants. Individuals seeking participation on a board should consider the amount of time they may need to devote to their board service. A healthy board contains members with diverse skills, experiences and viewpoints. If you feel that your energy and resources can make a positive impact and propel the organization to the next level of accomplishing its mission then you are the individual an organization will seek for board membership.

Why should I serve?

Board service is an excellent way to support a cause that is personally meaningful to you. It is a fantastic way to enrich your community by ensuring that cultural gems and vital institutions remain financially sound and relevant. In addition to fulfilling personal passions, board service is an excellent way to network and gain credibility within the community. As a member of a board you will discuss the challenges and successes of another organization, thus lending the opportunity for personal and professional development. When considering board service reflect on you passions and motivations.

When does a board meet?

How often a board meets is based entirely on the culture of the organization and is dependent upon the activities of the organization. During a campaign or in times of crisis, a board may meet frequently. Regardless of how often a board convenes, it is usually standard for all board members to attend a certain number of meetings to remain in good standing. Attendance is also vital to maintaining a quorum for voting.

Where can I learn more about board service?

Look locally and consider service on a non-profit board. Examine and share your skills. Board service is an opportunity to provide a skill or resource that enhances an organizations mission. Once you have identified the type of organization or mission you would like to support, reach out and express your interest in learning more about how you can contribute via board service. After you have declared your interest, the organization will likely commence the interview process. The interview is an opportune time for both parties to evaluate whether or not the potential position is fitting. During the interview, be prepared to let the organization know how your skills and leadership experiences will positively benefit the organization. If serving on the board is deemed mutually beneficial, you will likely be nominated or elected to a position - the Nominating Committee will typically oversee this process. It is important to note that often before joining a board you may be asked to serve on a committee. This is an opportunity for the organization to evaluate your commitment and it also affords you with the chance to see if board service is a proper fit.

What questions should I ask during an interview? 

  • When and how often are the meetings?

  • How long are the board terms?

  • Are there any financial obligations?

  • Do members of the board have directors and officers liability coverage?

  • What is the financial health of the organization?

  • Will there be an orientation?

  • Is serving on a committee a requirement?