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Board Leadership Overview

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In serving on a non-elected board, members help make critical decisions that influence the strategy, operations, and overall direction of schools and organizations. They are also able to have a substantial impact by championing a school or nonprofit organization in the community, and by supporting critical fundraising efforts. In so doing, board members stay connected to a mission they care deeply about—regardless of day job—and are able to deepen their leadership skills and strengthen their networks.

Board Function

While there is no one representative board experience, boards at schools and nonprofits organizations typically serve two functions: governance and support


  • Ensure that the organization/school is adhering to their mission and pursuing sound strategies to achieve its objectives. 

  • Ensure organization/school is spending money wisely and can continue to meet its financial and programmatic obligations 


  • Offer advice to ensure the organization continues to run effectively

  • Assist with revenue strategies

  • Provide volunteer services

  • Represent the organization as ambassadors to the community

Types of Boards

Governance Boards

  • Set direction and oversee the affairs of an organization 

  • Ensure adequate resources

  • Provide volunteer services

  • Represent the organization as ambassadors to the community

  • Has fiduciary responsibility

Ambassador Boards/Councils

  • Champion school/org as ambassadors in the community and within personal networks

  • Support work of the school/org through fundraising and volunteer efforts

Advisory Boards

  • Does not have fiduciary or government oversight functions, and does not manage the CEO/ED

  • Typically composed of high profile individuals who can give insight and name recognition, but less time

  • Assist with specific issue expertise, forming partnerships, and sometimes fundraising relationships

  • Meet less often and may be called on by the CEO/ED individually

What Boards Look For

  • Demonstrated commitment to school/org (and its mission) 

  • Specific skill sets– issue expertise, strategic planning, legal, marketing/PR, partnerships, IT, social media, real estate, etc.

  • Diversity – race, age, geography (from a community they serve), etc.

  • Relationships you bring to the table

  • Ability to put in time and meet commitments working directly on board projects or with the organization (e.g. attending meetings/events)

  • Ask explicitly, but assume at least 3-5 hours per month

  • Assistance with fundraising and financial management

How to Access Board Openings

  • Most boards do not advertise, and invites come directly from a CEO/ED or peer to peer from board members
    Investigate organizations that interest you and reach out to the ED or senior staff, anyone you know on a board and/or other contacts you may have there
    Join a committee as a non-voting member, or the junior board of a school/org
    Use Teach For America network as a resource 

How to Evaluate a Board?

  • How well does mission/model match with your interests?

  • Are you looking for an established board or a grassroots one?

  • How well do the needs of the board fit with your background?

  • What is the culture/feel of board?

  • Are time and financial commitments feasible for you at this time?

  • What is the strength of leadership and reputation of the organization?

  • What skills will you learn or deepen from 2+ years on this board?

  • What networks will you have access to? 

Becoming a Board Member

  • Apply directly to opportunity; typically includes submitting resume, but may involve an actual application (or written statement and letters of support) OR get connected with representative who oversees board

  • Meet directly with representative and/or tour school/org (or combo of the two)

  • Attend a board meeting
    Interview with board members – may vary in formality by board
    Officially voted in by board during meeting

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