Finding and Joining a Board

With worksheets on matching your passions with local nonprofits, as well as step-by-step guides on approaching organizations and performing due diligence, we’ll help you get your board search off to a strong start. Most content in this section can be viewed online or downloaded as pdfs. 

With this worksheet, you will explore the values that drive you. These exercises will help you identify the causes you care about and start to develop a target list of organizations.

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With this worksheet, you will identify the skills, experience, and network that you can offer an organization as a nonprofit board member. These exercises will help you develop your potential board member “elevator pitch,” so you are ready to put your best foot forward.

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This step-by-step guide will break down the board search process.

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Governing board? Advisory Board? Junior Board? Learn about the different types of boards, so you can narrow in on the type best aligned with your board service goals. 

Board of Directors (or Governing Board)

The board of directors’ main objectives and responsibilities are to perform fiduciary and legal oversight, to hire and oversee the CEO/executive director, and to serve as fundraisers and advocates for the organization.

The types of members range depending on organization, but nonprofits should strive to have a diverse board in terms of demographics, networks, and skills brought to the organization.

The board of directors is the only required type of board to be a 501c3, and it is the only board that can vote.

Junior Board (or Associate Board, Leadership Council, Next Generation Board, Young Professionals Board)

A junior board’s main objectives are to build awareness, serve as advocates for the organization, encourage individual gift fundraising (“Friend-raising”), and to plan fundraising events.  

Members of junior boards are often younger or earlier in their career due to a lower give/get (fundraising requirement). Junior boards may also serve as pipelines for future governing board members.

Junior boards have no formal legal or fiduciary responsibilities and they are non-voting bodies.

Advisory Board (or Advisory Council)

An advisory board’s main objective is to provide content area expertise and to serve as a sounding board for CEO/executive director and governing board chair.

Members of advisory boards are often experts in the field, and so having them associated with an organization adds credibility to the nonprofit. Advisory boards can also serve as a place to engage prospective or current donors or past governing board members.

Advisory boards have no formal legal or fiduciary responsibilities; they are non-voting; and generally, they have no fundraising requirement.

Region-Specific Board (or Advisory Board, Chapter Board)

The main objective of region-specific boards is to raise awareness and fundraise in a particular region or city.

Members of region-specific boards are often individuals who are dedicated to fundraising and advocating for the organization but who live in a different city than the governing board.

Region-specific boards have no formal legal or fiduciary responsibilities; they are non-voting, and they may be involve travel for the organization’s annual meeting.

Before you consider joining a board, it’s important to properly vet the organization. Here is a sampling of questions to ask before you sign on as a board member. Download ». For additional resources related specifically to assessing nonprofit financials see: Nonprofit Financials


The following websites can provide additional information on nonprofits and board service. 

  • GuideStar is the world's largest source of information on nonprofit organizations.
  • Charity Navigator is the nation's largest and most-utilized evaluator of charities.
  • Forefront is Illinois' statewide alliance of nonprofits, grantmaking foundations, advisors, public agencies, and social impact sector allies. Forefront provides research, resources, advocacy, and educational programs to help nonprofits and foundations increase their impact.
  • BoardSource is a recognized leader in nonprofit board leadership and supports, trains, and educates nonprofit leaders from across the country and throughout the world. 
  • Idealist is a site dedicated to connecting idealists – people who want to do good – with opportunities for action and collaboration.


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