How to Choose a Board to Join

Five things to consider when you're looking for a board to join

In last week’s post I recommended that you share with your network the type of board and/or organisation you want to join so that your network can better help connect you to potential board opportunities.

Naturally, the kicker is that you need to know where you want to go to be able to share this with other people. But how do you start to understand where you want to go?

Here are a few ways of understanding what type of board you want to join:

1. Alignment / passion with a cause or purpose

A deep connection with the purpose or cause of an organisation is close to an essential requirement on most boards. This is more evident on the boards of not-for-profits, community organisations, charities, and sporting clubs and associations.

Most of us have been personally touched by something: an illness, a tragedy, an opportunity, or an inspirational story. This inner motivating factor – that you really can’t manufacture or force – is something that the majority of boards look for from potential new board members.

And to be honest, why would you want to invest a lot of your time and energy (often for free) to a board and organisation that you don’t have a deep inner connection to?

2. Alignment with your values

Imagine hanging out with a group of people who like to party all night, drink lots of alcohol, and sleep the whole next day, while your idea of a fun night is a nice glass of red, a good book, and an early night. It’s not very fun for anyone and would get really irritating after a while.

It’s kind of like that if you join a board where there is a mismatch in values.

Find a board where you will feel comfortable being you – where the best version of yourself can step forward, contribute, and be appreciated.

3. Alignment with your career aspirations

This point is one that often elicits two polar responses from people: either they don’t think your board role should be seen as a ‘stepping-stone’; OR they are comfortable to see it as a stepping stone to future board roles and as a contribution to your professional career advancement.

I sit in the latter camp. GIVEN, you meet the criteria in point number one, that you are an active contributor, and you’re not a serial board-hopper.

If these criteria are met, then I see absolutely no problem in you using the board role as a stepping-stone to future board roles and/or professional career advancement. It just can’t be your ONLY motivation.

You are, after all, likely starting your board career as a volunteer, so why not receive your ‘payment’ for this work through experience that you can leverage for your future benefit?

4. Alignment with your career or life stage

This driver is more obvious to those aspiring board members who are at the point of their career and/or life where they are ready to ‘give back’ and to keep their mind stimulated and engaged.

You are most likely at a point where you are working part time, or are transitioning to retirement, or have left the workforce for whatever purpose. You want to stay engaged, mentally stimulated, and utilise your life-acquired skills and expertise for the benefit of a worthwhile organisation or group.

5. Alignment with your talents

If you’re an absolute gun in your chosen vocation, with a proven track record, you may be looking for an organisation – any organisation – that can benefit from having someone with your finely honed expertise on their board.

Your board search may be focused more on finding a board where your expertise is highly valued.


These five drivers can help you start to understand the types of boards you could (or should) join. Often I find that we hold a combination of drivers.

Work at discovering and articulating your motivations under each of these five drivers before starting your board search.

Knowing what you’re looking for makes it much easier for the other elements of your board searching activities to fall into place.

What is your primary board motivation?

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