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13 Reasons You Should Not Serve on a Board

I know what you’re thinking, “Wouldn’t I want to convince you to want to serve on a board of directors?” While volunteers are always loved & appreciated, board members are an elite group with greater responsibility. So really, I want the right people.

If these reasons you should not serve on a board don’t make you think twice, then great. Your chamber would love for you to apply as a board member. Today. Otherwise, have an honest conversation with yourself before you commit.

Not Just a Résumé builder

Being a board member is not a show-up-once-and-put-it-on-your-resume type of position. You will probably spend several hours a month assisting the organization you join. From meetings and committees to supporting programs, there are many different ways that board members might be asked to fulfill their role.

Chambers are nonprofits with very limited staffs & budgets and board members are hugely important volunteers that help the chamber meet their lofty goals to make a difference in the community.

Fiscal Responsibility

If you’re joining a board just so you can tell an organization how or where to spend their money (particularly at your own organization or business), then don’t. You’re wasting everyone’s time, including yours.

The board of directors does sign off on the budget but shouldn’t be focused on spending money or micro-managing. What IS important is building reserves and practicing fiscal responsibility on behalf of the chamber.

Decisions Not in Your Favor

When you’re on the Chamber Board, you’ll have to base your decisions on what’s best for the chamber itself – not your business or personal preference. For many, this is easier said than done. If you’re a board member, please ask yourself “is this good for the chamber or for me,” or excuse yourself. You can always abstain and cite a “conflict of interest.”

Staff Control

Additionally, you should not serve on a board because you want more say on their personnel. While the board does hire the CEO, and the CEO does answer to the board – you shouldn’t micro-manage any chamber staff. The CEO hires & oversees staff.

The board’s role is to focus on strategy. It’s the CEO’s role is to run the chamber with the board as a guide. 

Sales Goals & Giving

Some chambers do expect you to actively sell a certain number of event tickets, sponsorships, or some version of put-your-money-where-your-mouth-is. However, it’s usually just to show buy-in and you can donate as little as a dollar to new program, or the chamber is underfunded and really needs short-term support.

If you’re concerned about not being able to afford being a board member, then don’t worry as it’s likely not a barrier to entry. But if you don’t want to give even a single dollar, then the chamber is not the right organization to spend your time on.

Understanding the Organization & Membership

If you’re on the board of directors, you’ll be expected to understand the organization well enough to ‘sell’ it. Or at least answer questions when you’re chatting with people.

For example, if you’re a Chamber Board Member you’ll have to answer hard questions on the spot like “How has chamber made a difference for your business?” or “What does the chamber do?”.

It’s also personally frustrating when board members asks generic questions that I regularly answer in my email newsletter. 

Fortunately, this is usually an easy fix if you have a great board orientation (or just attend an upcoming member orientation). But if you have no interest in learning about the chamber, what it does, and helping the people it serves then how are you supposed to support the organization?


Board Members are also expected to counteract complaints, whether it’s relevant to you or not. Since the board of directors guides the strategy & direction of the chamber, then you will automatically be seen as a person that can influence change.

Like any management position, you should be somewhat prepared to interact with people, even if it’s to give a polite acknowledgment and later the complaint or information onto chamber staff.

Public Appearances

As a board member you’re a face of the chamber. You will likely be expected to attend at least some chamber events. Expectations for event attendance greatly varies by chamber, but at the very least I would plan to be at the larger or annual events.

Additionally, some board members will also be asked to attend meetings with local and state officials, or other irregular events.

Always On

Once you’re introduced as a Board Member, that’s what the public will see you as. Whether you’re at a baseball game with the family or leaving reviews on Facebook, people are now judging you as a professional, and associating your actions with the chamber.


When you show up to the monthly meeting, you’ll vote on stuff. While it sounds easy, you’ll be expected to read the minutes, reports, etc. before the actual meeting. While the time you spend on this will vary greatly, I assure you there is lot going on at chambers behind the scenes.

Of course, you actually need to show up to said meetings to actually be able to vote. Additionally, you need a quorum (or certain number of board members) in attendance to actually be able to vote as a group.


Not only will you be expected to meet with other board members on a monthly basis (probably), you’ll also (probably) have to join a committee. Committees are extra time commitments where you work on chamber projects and then have to report on to the regular board meeting.

However, these committees & programs are an excellent place for you to directly influence local change.

Niche Experience & Expertise

Chamber Boards discuss a variety of topics, from community projects to recommendations on how the chamber could be more efficient. While you don’t need to be an expert in every field, you will be expected to be able to contribute to some topic. One way this is simplified is through various committees.

A good board of directors will have a diverse group of people with experience or expertise in different fields. If there are too many people similar to you on the current board, then you might need to wait and be one of their successors instead of joining sooner.

Board Chairman

You know that phrase about being rewarding good work with more work? Well, this is it.

If you’re a great board member, then you will totally be peer-pressured into being the next Board Chairman. In addition to normal board member stuff, you’ll have to spend even more time with the CEO serving as the board liaison.

Grain of Salt

Of course, your chamber staff knows you have your actual business or job to do, so we’re not looking for perfection. Your main value as a board member may not have even been listed above, and that’s okay. Different people bring different skills, experiences, etc. to the table – which is exactly what we want.

My biggest point I want you to take away is that if you want to serve on a board – actually serve.

I just want board members everywhere to be more involved with their chamber or organization – not just showing up to the occasional meeting. And when you do show up, then you should be thinking about how you can serve others – not yourself & your own business.

Which are you?

If you are a current board member, then thanks for your help! I hope these helped refresh your mindset in helping your chamber work towards positive success. And if you are interesting in being a better board member, I recommend reading Stop the Nonprofit Board Blame Game: How to Break the Cycle of Frustrating Relationships and Benefit from Fully Engaged Boards, The Imperfect Board Member, or other resources for boards of directors.

Potential board members – if these reasons you should not serve on a board are a cinch for you, then you’re amazing and I want you to talk to your local chamber ASAP!

If you still want to help your chamber, but the above makes you hesitate about serving on a board of directors, then start small. You can always ask about being a regular volunteer, Ambassador, or serving on a committee. Talk your to local chamber and see where you might fit in. You don’t have to serve on the board to make a difference.

You can always revisit the idea later. You are an ever-growing and changing professional. While serving on a board of directors may not be the best fit now, you might be more inclined to serve in the future.


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