The Three Commitments of Great Board Members

Governance Q&A Session

I’m regularly asked about what people need to commit when becoming a board member. Aspiring board members usually over focus on needing to know the governance factors accompanying board service. And, whilst it is vital to know these and commit to them, it is only a fraction of what you are expected to bring to the board table. These other commitments vary based on each board and each organisation at specific points in time; however, I have found them to be universal across a range of organisations, boards, and points in time. I’ve categorised these into three areas: investment, social, expertise.



Whether you’re a paid board member or a volunteer board member, you will be required to invest into your role as a board member. Usually this will manifest through time and energy. Time to prepare for meetings, attend meetings, follow through on allocated action items, serve on committees, think about issues being considered at board level, attend events, attend the AGM, and travel (to name a few). And, of course, to invest the time you need to have the energy. It helps to have enough energy to enable yourself to bring the highest and best version of yourself to your board work.

Beyond time and energy outlays, you may be expected (in as much as possible) to personally give money to the organisation. This is often the expectation in for-purpose organisations (NFPs and charities); however, there may be moments where you may be asked to personally invest or loan money to an organisation of which you’re a company director or board member (if you’re ever asked to do this, please seek legal and financial advice before doing so). Of course, consideration must be given to the realistic capacity you have to financially contribute to the organisation; you don’t want to financially overextend yourself. Additionally, it’s likely not in anyone’s best interest to continue to prop up an unfinancial organisation through ‘donations’ or ‘director loans’. These could potentially be red flags regarding solvency.

Nonetheless, you may be asked to put your hand in your pocket to support the organisation you govern. If the only capacity you have is your time to donate to board service, I believe that often that is enough.



When I recently delivered a series of Q&A sessions with various business leaders, their most significant board and governance issues stemmed from interpersonal challenges amongst board members and even into the management team. When you bring together a disparate group of individuals (all with their own unique temperaments and personalities) to work together only once a month or once every other month it’s difficult for this to go smoothly without some serious work from the Chair and some significant self-awareness from each board member.

For the effective and efficient work of the board to happen, solid relationships need to be formed amongst the board members. You must put forth effort to build rapport with your board colleagues and actively work at building and maintaining a high trust environment on the board. If everyone approaches their board role with the same amount of interest in contributing to an effective working environment on their board, the better (more efficient and effective) the board will work and the greater value it will add to the organisation.

Looking beyond the boardroom, you may be asked to facilitate introductions, opening the door to the ‘right’ people at the right moment. Having a strong network is a highly valued attribute of board members (and board candidates). It is another way in which you can contribute to the organisation you are leading. Be willing to share your network for the betterment of the organisation.



The greatest value you can add to a board and organisation is contributing from your expertise; the culmination of your knowledge, skills, experiences gained from your professional work life. This is the primary reason why you were asked to join this board and organisation. So, bring your valuable expertise to bear on all issues and matters that the board is facing, and proactively offer it where you see it may add value.

And once you’re there, don’t stop learning. A new continuous learning cycle will commence with every new board role and even existing board roles. The dynamics within and around every organisation are always changing, requiring board members to be able to shift and adapt and respond appropriately. There will be aspects to being a great board member that will become apparent to you over your board life cycle; be open and willing to lean into these areas and learn about them and about yourself. This will add further value to your current board and build your capabilities and enhance your contributions for future boards.


When you’re asked to join a board, you’re expected to learn and apply the governance factors relevant to your context. Great board members go beyond this and make a commitment to invest time, energy, and (sometimes) money, build and leverage the social dynamics of the board, open doors for the betterment of the organisation’s mission, contribute in their areas of expertise, and continue to expand their knowledge through continuous learning and application.  Will you commit to being a great board member?


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