Hopefully, there is a robust orientation that will help you to understand the commitments and expectations you just agree to meet. Whether or not there is there are some common things that should help any board member. Here are three items you should consider.
First you should know that attendance is generally required. Usually that attendance is in person but as technology expands and improves some board allow attendance via conference call or video conference. You should find out how many meetings and plan to attend at a minimum the majority of these meetings. You will want to know if you can attend other than in person and if you are not in person if you may still fully participate, vote and if your vote counts. You need to understand the time commitment so you can be certain you can fulfill that commitment.
Second you need to understand the role of your board and thus your role as a member. Depending on the size of the organization and particularly the size of the staff of the organization, some boards are hands on in running the activities while many and perhaps most serve as the general steering committee for the overall direction of the organization. In some boards there may be an expectation that you will serve as a good will ambassador and/or fundraiser for the organization. However, you will want to know early on whether you are expected to manage or micromanage the organization.
Finally, in any board you must remember that you are responsible for the health, well-being and sustainability of your organization. This is true no matter the organization whether a trade association or non-profit raising funds to fight cancer or any type of association. The organization and you as a board member have a responsibility to see that the funds of the organization, no matter the source, are used for the express purposes of the organization.
There are numerous other items you may want to consider. You should familiarize yourself with the policies of the organization particularly as it relates to conflicts of interest. You will also want to know the term of your service and whether you may serve additional terms. Finally, there may be additional board member training that is available to you through your association. There are numerous resources available online both free and at some cost.