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What's It Like To Volunteer On...A Non-profit Board?

Posted By Melissa Haughton, Volunteer Guest Blogger, June-20-16
Updated: June-17-16

Board members meeting 

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

Are you a professional looking to volunteer your time and skills for a cause you feel passionate about?  Are you looking for a volunteer role with more accountability that leverages your knowledge and experience? Are you looking to take your strategic thinking, communication, and planning skills to the next level?

If any of these scenarios resonate with you, non-profit board opportunities may be an excellent next step. Every non-profit has a group of volunteers know as a Board of Directors who collectively oversee the organization’s mission, strategic objectives, and financial and human resources. Whilst board roles can be a great leadership volunteer opportunity, they can be significantly different based on the size and structure of the non-profit organization and tend to require both a long-term commitment and a notable dedication of time and effort.

Rhema Kang 
 Rhema Kang

We spoke to Toronto lawyer, Rhema Kang, about her experience sitting on the board of the Chinese Canadian National Council of Toronto (CCNCTO), an organization of Chinese Canadians in the City of Toronto that promotes equity, social justice, inclusive civic participation, and respect for diversity.





How long have you volunteered with CCNCTO?

I have volunteered as a director for the past year, prior to that I spent 3 years on the board of English Language Tutoring for the Ottawa Community (ELTOC), a non-profit organization that provides home tutoring for adult immigrants who cannot attend regular English programs.


How would you describe your board role?

As a director, I attend monthly board meetings to decide on governance, funding, engagement, activities, and more. My role mainly focuses on the ‘big picture’ of the organization, although I sometimes get involved in the day-to-day aspects.


Was training provided for your role?

There was no training provided, but my legal background has definitely helped me understand the duties and responsibilities of directors, as well as the laws that govern non-profit organizations. However, I think anyone who brings passion and a willingness to learn and invest time into an organization can succeed as a director of a board.


What is the time commitment involved on your board?

About 10 hours per month, mostly spent in board meetings and occasionally at events with CCNCTO members.


What common misconceptions do people have about board volunteering?

People often assume you need to be an established professional to become a director of a non-profit board. While this may be true for some large non-profits, there are many small charities looking for committed directors with diverse talents and perspectives. I joined my first board when I was 24 years old, and most of the other directors were middle-aged or older. There was an opportunity for me to use my experience with social media to help the organization, which is something the other directors did not have much familiarity with. So diverse skills are definitely in demand.


What do you like most about volunteering for Chinese Canadian National Council of Toronto (CCNCTO)?

CCNCTO is an advocacy organization that was originally founded to seek redress from the Chinese Head Tax imposed on Chinese migrant workers. Since then, CCNCTO has evolved into an organization that promotes equity, civil participation and respect for diversity. I've had the opportunity to play a role in defining the mission and vision of the organization as it goes forward. I'm encouraged to see the ways in which the organization sends a powerful message to members of the Chinese community - I was recently part of an event at City Hall where many Chinese seniors were excited to be taking selfies with Mayor John Tory!


What advice do you have for anyone interested in volunteering on a non-profit board? 

Get to know the organization before becoming a board member. If you’re already involved with the organization as a volunteer, you'll know the day-to-day operations, as well as the challenges and opportunities. This knowledge will make your contribution as a board member that much stronger. Start with a small organization you're familiar with, and this will open up opportunities to work with other boards down the road.


Becoming a Board Member CTA



Melissa Haughton is a recent graduate who currently works in marketing. She is passionate about writing, cats and helping out in the community. You can connect with her on LinkedIn.


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