Need community? Join a board.

Before I joined the board of directors at the Independent Publishing Resource Center (IPRC), I thought you needed to have tons of time and mountains of money to even consider being a board member. Turns out, artists can be board members too.

But why might you want to devote several hours each week or month to being on a board of a nonprofit arts organization? Don't you already have enough to do? If it's the right board for you then you'll be of service, have fun and also help your artist life and career. Here's how:

  1. Find Community: If you're making art, chances are you're also spending way too much time alone. If you have even one extrovert bone in your body, you may miss the camaraderie that being involved with a team provides. The IPRC board is comprised of people I enjoy seeing once a month at our board meetings—people I wouldn't even know if we hadn't all signed on to board service.
  2. Practice Asking for Money: Most board members need to participate in some aspect of fundraising. You know what's easier than asking others to support your art? Asking others to support a nonprofit you believe in. But asking people for money to support a nonprofit's mission gives you great practice in talking about money, funding and getting over yourself.
  3. Rub Elbows with Influencers: As a board member,I get invited to shindigs I'd never be invited to otherwise, and I've met artists and other movers and shakers in my hometown of Portland—people I wouldn't have a reason to talk to if not for IPRC business. These connections expand my circle and help me feel more a part of Portland's arts scene.

The nonprofit you may want to join is likely one you already know. Think about which organization's events you already enjoy attending. Read their mission statement—it's important to feel passionate about the organization's work in the world. If you have one in mind, look on the website and find out who's on the board, then attend more events, and offer to help with one small task. If that goes well, you can volunteer to be on a committee before committing to the board.

If you don't already have an organization in mind, think about your passions. In your hometown, there are likely hundreds of arts nonprofits working in the literary, visual and performing arts. Discover the ones that are making the kind of art you believe in. 

If the organization doesn't have any openings or being on a board sounds like too big a commitment, find another way to volunteer doing something you enjoy and working with people you want to meet. The organization gets the benefit of your service and you get the satisfaction of working on a team toward a common goal.

If you get serious about joining a board, find out if the board has openings. Ask if members need to make financial contributions and how much time you need to volunteer each month, and see if you can visit a board meeting.

Finding the right board is like finding the right mate; it's good to take small steps. But when it's a good match, everyone wins. 

Molokani Carousing by Niko Pirosmani, 1905; oil on oilcloth, 180 x 112 cm, Sighnaghi Museum, Sighnaghi, Georgia.