To Serve, To Work, To Join, To Learn

March 06, 2014
| by Editor |

What motivates people to serve on nonprofit boards? In our Winter 2014 Georgia Nonprofit NOW feature article "Who's on Board," we highlight our research on board membership motivation and provide a deep dive into assessing, recruiting and retaining top notch board members. Here, we take a look at what our data show are the top ten reasons people initially make the decision to join nonprofit boards.

The first thing you have to do is stop thinking of them simply as "The Board."

Top Ten Reasons Why Board Members First Join

1. To serve the organization and contribute to its success
2. To be helpful to others
3. To contribute to society
4. Sense of duty/committment to the mission
5. To help the particular group that this organization serves
6. To share my expertise and professional skills
7. Out of loyalty to and respect for the organization
8. I have a desire to work with others
9. To learn more about the organization and the cause it supports
10. Opportunity for personal growth  

Source: Board Member Motivation at Georgia Nonprofits, GCN/Old Dominion University/Seattle University

Start by understanding your board members one at a time–as individuals–each with his or her individual motivations, talents, interests and values. Yes, they've agreed to help lead your organization to greatness–but it's up to you to discover what each board member's abilities are, and what drives him or her to put those abilities to use.

In order to help you discover what drives your board members to serve as your volunteer leaders, GCN, in partnership with research teams at Old Dominion University and Seattle University, conducted a motivation survey of board members at 726 Georgia nonprofits. According to our study, board members are here largely to serve, to work, to join, and to learn. 

Other questions in the study looked into the background of board members: most (73%) were taught as children they should "lend a helping hand," and a strong majority (62%) attended religious services as kids often or "all of the time." Almost all of them (90%) say public service is "very important,", most (83%) say they're moved by the plight of the underprivileged, and most (75%) think "patriotism" includes seeing to the welfare of others.

For more on boards, including a three-step assessment process and expert advice on recruiting potential members, GCN members may login to view "Who's on Board," our feature article from the winter 2014 edition of Georgia Nonprofit NOW. 


GCN Board Resources

The Board Chairs Speak - NOW, Winter 2014 | Meet the board chairs from a handful of GCN member nonprofits and learn what they feel has been the most valuable aspects of their service.

Board Membership Motivations | Read the entire research report and analysis of our study with Old Dominion University and Seattle University.

One Day to a Better Board | Our report from the annual GCN Board Leadership Clinic, held most recently in October 2013. | The online gateway to GCN's growing suite of board governance resources.

GCN Communications Manager Tom Zimmerman and Writer/Editor Marc Schultz contributed to this report.

Add new comment

Enter the characters shown in the image.
Subscribe to GCN Blog RSS