What is a Nonprofit Associate Board?

In this blog post we cover everything you need to know about joining a nonprofit associate or junior board, from duties and responsibilities to the benefits and perks.


Associate Board Defined: The Basics

A relatively new concept, associate and junior nonprofit boards are comprised of young professionals, typically in their 20s and 30s who’ve never served on a board before. At Levé, our average member age is 28 and over two-thirds of us had never served on a board before joining. Boards are leadership groups that exist to carry forward the mission of a nonprofit through fundraising, stewardship, and strategy. We call these the 3 T’s:

  1. Time: from regular meetings to volunteer events, associate board members should expect to donate time as well as invite their networks to do the same. On average, Levé board members spend about 10 hours a month working on projects, attending meetings, and more.

  2. Talent: the secret sauce of any associate board is their members’ collective expertise, from PR and marketing to event planning and business development.

  3. Treasure: the fundraising piece is key of course; associate board members leverage their networks to help raise funds for the nonprofit.

The main difference between a board of directors (BOD) and an associate board is the financial piece; associate and junior boards generally have lower (or no) board dues. Think of an associate board as the training ground for moving onto the “big board” one day.

Since Levé is volunteer-run, we actually have board members as well as committee members and no paid staff. All of our board members also sit on a committee, but the biggest difference is our board has voting rights and dues (learn more about how we work). Nonprofits all operate a bit differently, so be sure to understand the duties and responsibilities before making a commitment.


Top 3 Reasons to Join a Board: The Why

First things first: if 10 or so hours a month is too much of a commitment, which we totally understand, we urge you to find some one-time volunteer opportunities that fit your schedule (follow along on our Do Good, Feel Good Calendar) and consider that a board might not be for you at this time. However, if you can find the time to commit, we believe it is 100% worth it! Our top 3 reasons to join a board are:

  1. Career & skill growth: whether you’re searching for a new job or promotion, associate boards are a safe place to try something new. In fact, more than 95% of Levé members say they have learned relevant new skills and almost 25% of us would even credit Levé for a recent new job or promotion.

  2. Training for a BOD: an associate board is a gateway to joining a corporate or nonprofit board of directors. Corporate boards are a great way to grow your career and earn more money. Associate board experience will give you a leg up when you’re ready to join a board of directors.

  3. They need us: according to this Blackbaud study, baby boomers are currently the primary source of charitable giving. It's our generation’s responsibility to pick up the reigns and redefine philanthropy on our terms. Perhaps we can’t give large dollar amounts yet, but we can give of our time and passion.

  4. BONUS! Our fourth reason is just for our ladies out there: women on boards are good for the bottom line. In fact, companies with the highest percentage of female board members outperform those with the least by 66%. Check out this blog post from Hubspot to learn more.


Duties & Responsibilities: The Nitty Gritty

Generally, there are no skill or experience requirements for someone to join a board. The two chief qualifications would be your ability to dedicate your time and be an advocate for the nonprofit mission. In our experience, passion and follow-through are the two essential qualities of an ideal board candidate.

Unlike the board of directors, most associate or junior boards do not have the same type of fiduciary responsibility to the nonprofit. While you are not legally responsible for the nonprofit, the same general rules should still apply. The basic fiduciary duties of a board directors are:

  1. Duty of care, a.k.a. show up! Be sure you are able to accommodate the schedule of meetings and be present at the majority of them.

  2. Duty of loyalty, a.k.a. be honest! Ensure you disclose or avoid any conflicts of interest and always keep confidential information, well, confidential.

  3. Duty of obedience to purpose, a.k.a. care about the cause! Be engaged and make inquiries as necessary; always act in the best interest of the nonprofit.

Prior to joining any type of board, be sure you understand your duties, including the (sometimes boring, but very important!) legal and financial ones.


Benefits of Becoming a Board Member: The Fun Stuff!

We may be a bit biased, but we highly encourage everyone to consider joining an associate or junior board. While it’s not for everyone, the benefits really are great.

  1. Do good, feel good: sometimes we need a reminder of how good it feels to help others. Most of our members work in the “corporate” world and we find it can be easy to get bogged down in our day-to-day “busy-ness” and forget that the world is happening all around us. Being regularly connected to a cause we care about offers perspective we might not otherwise have.

  2. Network (but not in a boring way): we don’t know about you, but the minute someone says “networking event,” our eyes glaze over. Joining an associate board is a great way to organically meet new people. Bonus if the nonprofit includes face time with their board of directors, who are usually well-connected folks to know, especially if you’re looking for career advancement!

  3. It’s fun (seriously): what's better than spending quality time with peers who share your values? One of the main roles of many associate boards is to plan fun events that cater to their peers. From bowl-a-thons to dance parties to drag queen bingo, there’s never a dull moment on your social calendar.  

If you’re looking for an opportunity to make a difference, meet new awesome people, and perhaps start on your path towards joining a board of directors, then an associate board is for you.


Not Just a Resumé-Booster: The Caveat

Our #1 piece of advice for anyone looking to serve on an associate board is to connect first to the mission of the nonprofit. Please don’t join a board for the accolades (more often than not, there are none). Don’t join just to list it on your Linkedin profile (there are plenty of other, perhaps better, things you should be doing to beef up your resumé).

Most of us (happily) drank the Levé kool-aid. We believe that when we help others, we treat people with more respect; we are kinder and more compassionate. And when we are kinder, we inspire others to be as well. And thus sparks a chain reaction—a ripple effect of more goodness in the world.  

Find what you’re passionate about and start there. If you think you don’t have time, make the time. If you think you don’t belong, trust us, YOU DO.  If there’s no associate board in the space you love, create your own.

Now, go sign our #DOMOREGOOD pledge and do it to it, friends!