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How to Join a Board of Directors

One professional standing and speaking to a group of people around a table.

Board service is a lot of work. Members are in charge of huge decisions that impact a whole company, guiding the future of their organization.

Whether for a nonprofit organization, a private company, or a public entity, serving on a board is for people with big aspirations. Knowing how to get on a board of directors takes work. If you’re aspirational, here’s everything you need to know.

What You’ll Do as a Board Member

As a board member, your job is to look after the company’s success for investors. You’re tasked with making sure your organization is advancing toward its goals. You’ll get to vote on significant decisions for the company as you oversee the larger picture of the business.

You can expect frequent meetings with the board, sometimes including other executives.

In rare cases, you might face an emergency vote. Unless you’re a corporate board member, there’s a good chance you’ll never experience an emergency vote. It’s more of a common occurrence for large corporations.

Boards of directors consist of elected members that determine an organization’s finances and future. Many board members start as experts in their fields.

A professionally-dressed group in a discussion.

Roles Within a Board of Directors

Within a company’s board of directors, there are several roles and responsibilities. Each of these board positions offers different services to the operations and meetings.

These are the most common board roles:

  • Board members: These members are subject matter experts and offer their skills while discussing items on the agenda. Board members also take part in votes.

  • Secretary: This position takes care of administration and communication needs. They are also in charge of meeting minutes and keeping the meeting organized.

  • Treasurer: These individuals play a large part in the organization’s finances. They’re in charge of preparing financial reports that are important to votes.

  • Vice Chairperson: The vice chairperson works directly under the chairperson. They work closely with the CEO to establish meeting agendas or directives. The vice chair also acts as the chairperson when they are absent.

  • Chairperson: This is the highest role of the board-level position. They run the meetings and also have duties outside of meetings, including working with the CEO and other chief executives to set the culture and attitude of a company.

Work Your Way to the Top

If you’re driven to be on a board of directors, chances are you’ll have to climb the ladder. The good news is this route has been trekked before.

If you want to know how to become a board member, here are a couple of steps you should take.

Become an Expert in Your Field

Because board members oversee the whole business, they must know their stuff. Nobody expects you to be an expert in every field, but being an expert in a specific area is desirable. Of course, the treasurer will need accounting skills and experience.

You’ll be more successful in filling a board seat if you have lots of experience in a single field.

Start Small

While trying to join a board of directors, start small. Take any and all opportunities for more managerial experience. Start as a team leader, prove yourself there, and move to department manager or regional manager.

Start looking for small businesses, startups, or nonprofit boards. They’re usually relatively small and need subject matter experts. Serving in a nonprofit organization would be a great place to start for someone with a philanthropic goal.


Per usual, it’s not what you know; it’s who you know. It’s difficult to move up the ladder without getting to know people. Be persistent and use any connection you have to get your foot in the door.

Ask questions about opportunities and follow through with any presented to you. You never know what you might miss.

Graphic demonstrating people climbing an organization's ladder.

Become a General Member

If you dream of being board president, you probably need to be a general member first. It’s improbable that someone could go from not serving on a board to leading one.

Get-rich schemes typically don’t work, and the same applies to rising in your organization. Be a board member and learn about your organization’s structure and needs.

Take your time to get to know the organization, and when the time comes for an election, put your name in.

Skills and Training Board Members Need

Board members play a pivotal role in guiding organizations toward success, requiring unique skills and attributes. This guide explores three essential competencies that empower aspiring board members to impact the boardroom significantly.

Communication Skills

Learn to communicate your opinions effectively. Rhetorical training can go a long way. You’ll want to know how to keep your statements on topic and explain the reasoning for your views. There may also be times you’ll need to utilize persuasion to sway people’s votes.

Emotional Intelligence

It’s a known fact that hiring managers prefer emotional intelligence to IQ. That’s because it’s necessary for working in a group.

Emotional intelligence will help you know when and how to utilize other leadership skills you’ve picked up along the way. You can improve your emotional intelligence through training.

Meeting Efficiency

Most of your time as a board member will occur in board meetings. Learn how sessions work and the best practices for running one. Proper verbiage occurs during formal meetings; their flow is typically the same. It would be best if you also learned how minutes work.

A group in a meeting room in a video conference with people on a screen.

Become a Boss at REDC

Check out our Council and Board Member Training course to learn what it takes to be a board member and improve the skills necessary for the job. While you’re at it, we also have management and leadership skills courses to help you reach the top.

Home LinkThe REDC is a Division of Yavapai College.Go to yc.edu

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