How to secure a board of directors position
When I first started working in public accounting, I remember being very impressed whenever I met a manager or senior manager who served time on a not-for-profit board of directors. Serving on a board of directors for a company is an impressive resume boost, since it shows involvement and leadership in your community outside of work.
Additionally, if you choose a not-for-profit who has a mission that is important to you, it also gives you a chance to give back to the community. Not-for-profit organizations are 501(c)(3) tax exempt entities that are organized and operated exclusively for religious, charitable, scientific, literary or educational purposes. There are over 1.5 million not-for-profit organizations registered in the United States, so there are plenty of companies that may have openings on their board of directors. Most organizations are in need of a CPA on their board of directors to provide advice and guidance around their financial statements, tax filings, budgeting, and cash forecasts.
Before I get into the specifics of a board of directors’ position, it is important to note the difference between joining a for-profit board of directors as opposed to a not-for-profit board of directors:
- For-profit board of directors: This represents the board of a private or public for-profit organization. This involvement is usually not allowed by most employers since it could create a conflict of interest. The majority of large corporations have requirements for approving major roles in another organization to ensure there are no independence issues. This is especially true in public accounting firms.
- Not-for-profit board of directors: This represents the board of a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization. This would usually include public charities or private foundations. Most employers will allow this type of position but it may require approval, especially if you work at a public accounting firm.
If you are interested in figuring out how to get on a board of directors, it’s usually best to start with a not-for-profit organization. It is easier to land a position for a not-for-profit organization since there is a huge demand for skilled CPAs. This can also be a huge resume boost for your next job search or if you hope to be on a for-profit board in the future.
If you have a unique skillset or achievement, like the CPA license, it immediately makes you extremely valuable in the not-for-profit world. I ended up landing a treasurer role at a not-for-profit organization called the Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation, which is dedicated to ending mesothelioma and the suffering caused by cancer.
I discovered the role because my husband’s father battled the terrible disease. His family was involved in the organization and discovered that they desperately needed a CPA to fill the role of the Treasurer on its board. There are so many other not-for-profits that need members of the board of directors with unique skillsets – you just have to find them!
In order to find a board that has an open board of directors positions, I recommend starting the process by using your network. Do you have any family, friends, or coworkers who are already involved in a charity or foundation? If so, you can use your network and ask if they are aware of any board of directors positions that need to be filled.
If you can’t find a board of directors position to apply to through your network, you can also use Google to your advantage. If you search “not-for-profit board of directors positions,” you will see so many websites that essentially list the roles available and you can filter on the type of organization, city, etc.
After you apply for the board member position, there will likely be an interview process, much like any job interview process. Once you join, there is usually a term associated with the role, and there may be monthly or quarterly meetings, depending on the organization.
For example, when I served as the treasurer on a not-for-profit board of directors, I had board meetings scheduled each month over a Zoom call. I also checked in with our tax advisors, auditors, and financial advisors periodically to ensure the financials were on track. I also reviewed and approved the budget in the fall of each year.
Ultimately, I am grateful that I had experience serving as the treasurer for a not-for-profit board of directors. It was a positive addition to my resume and provided additional speaking points during job interviews. Overall, it allowed me to support a foundation that was close to my heart, and giving back to the community by using my accounting skills for good was truly rewarding.
I would love this series to be a dialogue, so if you have additional advice or questions on how to get on the board of directors, send me a message on Instagram.