Board Members are key volunteers

When we think of volunteers at community organizations, we tend to think of those who roll up their sleeves and pitch in on program delivery, events and fundraisers – like the folks who pack hampers at the Strathcona Food Bank, mentor youth through Big Brothers Big Sisters, show us to our seat at Festival Place, coach kids’ sports, keep the grounds clean at the Ravenwood Music Festival, play music for the residents at Sherwood Care, and drive to Camrose to work a casino – all essential volunteer roles!   But we tend to forget about the less visible forms of volunteering – including that Board Members are volunteers too.

What does being a volunteer Board Member involve?  That depends on the organization.  Some Boards are at the helm of the day to day operations of the organization (often referred to as ‘operational’ or ‘working’ Boards) – these are usually organizations with no paid staff, where Board members end up with double duty – trying to govern the organization but spending most of their time running it.  The Boards I have been on have had one or more paid staff in a leadership role, so the Board was mostly focused on governance – we kept our focus on overseeing that the organization’s Mission, Vision and Values were being followed, and determining the future direction of the organization.  Most Boards likely fall somewhere in between – some operational work, some governance, and a whole lot of volunteering!

No matter what kind of Board you are on, Board Members are volunteers, with the same fundamental duties: the duties of care, loyalty and obedience, which essentially mean you pay attention to what’s going on in the organization, prepare for and attend Board meetings, make decisions that are in the best interests of the organization at all times, and ensure the organization is following it’s mission, bylaws and applicable legislation.  You need to be enthusiastic about the organization’s mission, willing and able to commit to the role, and open to working collaboratively.   You want to be clear about what is governance and what is operations; if you are on a Board that does both, you need to ensure you know which hat you have on at any time – and work with the organization to recruit other volunteers to help with other volunteer tasks whenever possible, so that you and the rest of your Board can focus more of your time and energy on governance.  As a Board Member, I got to be a volunteer with a lot of influence over the direction of the organizations I served – a big responsibility, but it was also some of the most fulfilling volunteer work I’ve done.

  • Are you on a Board?   Whether you are new to Board membership or can’t remember when you haven’t been sitting on a Board, you undoubtedly have questions about how to strengthen your Board and better understand your role on it.  

Check out the next instalment in the FREE Across the Board workshops in Strathcona County  – “Governance and Operations – Building Pathways to Successful Volunteers”.  There are three dates/locations to choose from (February 15 from1-4pm in Josephburg, February 27 from 6-9pm in Sherwood Park, and March 9 from 9am to 12pm in Ardrossan) – you can choose whichever workshop fits your schedule. 

And you won’t want to miss the Bylaw Workshop on March 8th in Sherwood Park – I mean, who doesn’t love a chance to take a deep dive into bylaws?  Whether you are a bylaw geek like me, or wish you never had to look at them, there is no denying that bylaws are a key component of governance – and this workshop promises to make it easy for all of us to start work on revising bylaws to make sure they work for the culture of our organizations.

For more information on these workshops, and to register, visit here: link

  • Interested in joining a Board?  Contact me at Volunteer Strathcona – I’d be happy to answer your questions and let you know about organizations that are currently recruiting in Strathcona County. 
  • Is your community organization currently looking for Board members?  Let us know at Volunteer Strathcona and we’ll add you to our list so we can let folks in our community know what you are looking for.