In many ways, financial advisors are natural candidates for an organization’s board of directors. Financially minded? Check. Relationship builders? Check. Sales and marketing experience? Check, and check.

“As advisors, we are good at getting stuff done,” says Mark Landers, managing partner with Toronto-based Northridge Financial Group Ltd. “Business people tend to spend much of their time strategizing. But organizations also need people who can expedite the process and focus on what’s important now. We [advisors] do that every day when we help our clients.”

What’s in it for you? Well, you won’t be paid unless you happen to luck onto a major corporation’s board. So, besides the opportunity to give back, you have the chance to interact with like-minded professionals who share common ground with you. As Landers puts it, you are able to meet prominent people under favourable circumstances.

Before agreeing to join a board of directors, follow these three tips to achieve the best possible outcome:

1. Be passionate. By all means, join a board to network and build your resumé. But if you aren’t genuinely interested in the organization’s mandate, it will show.

Advisors with a self-serving agenda don’t last long, says Richard McKenster, president of Richard McKenster Financial Planning Inc. in Halifax. McKenster has served on Advocis’s board of directors, as well as on the boards of other associations for financial advisors. “Instead, consider what your core values are and if the organization aligns with them,” he suggests. “If you’re not sure, ask.”

Landers, for instance, has a passion for helping kids to achieve their goals. Landers now is chairman of the board of directors of Future Possibility for Kids, through which school-aged kids are paired with an adult; the children learn leadership skills and put those skills to work in community-based projects.

Most boards pick their directors by reaching out to those who already volunteer for the organization. Winnie Go, senior wealth advisor and portfolio manager with ScotiaMcLeod Inc. in Toronto, initially joined the National Club eight years ago because it was a place where she could bring her clients and prospects, easily set up seminars and network with other professionals. Go also liked the fact that the club was next door to her offices.

Go ended up serving on a few committees. Then, last year, she was approached to serve on the club’s board. She accepted to make things better, she explains: “You care about a cause or place, and you’re giving your time to make it an even better place.”

Leony deGraaf, a certified financial planner and elder planning counsellor with deGraaf Financial Strategies in Burlington, Ont., joined a community police board that aims to prevent crime against seniors. The police approached deGraaf both because they knew seniors made up most of her client base and wanted someone with a financial background.

2. Check the ego. A board of directors isn’t the place to pick battles with everyone. It’s about working with a team for the purpose of bettering the organization.

“At certain times,” says McKenster, “one has to say, ‘I’m wrong, you’re right’ and move on because the board is larger than any one individual’s opinion.”

3. Consider the time commitment. Joining a board means more responsibility than simply volunteering.

“You have duties attached to your [board] membership,” says deGraaf, “so you have to make sure you can do it.”

So, you’ll want to find out how many meetings you need to attend and what your role entails. Resist the temptation to join more than one board to start, says Landers: “I only sit on one board of directors right now, so I’m able to commit more time to it.”

All the advisors interviewed for this article spend about four hours a month on their board duties – hardly an onerous amount of time. But it can get complicated.

“An advisor’s schedule is not predictable,” notes deGraaf. “We can set appointments but, if there’s a client death or something like that, we have to squeeze things in. If there’s only one [board] meeting a month, you miss a lot if you miss that meeting. So, you really do have to be committed to it.”

The more senior the position on the board, the more commitment and responsibility that’s expected, she adds. Besides the standard monthly meetings, there are often committees and subcommittees for which your attendance is mandatory.

deGraaf was once the board chairperson for a charity. When too many things were competing for her schedule, she resigned and stepped into a board membership role instead. “If you have to leave, find a successor to the role to help smooth the transition,” she suggests. “That allows you to leave on a good note.”

© 2014 Investment Executive. All rights reserved.