What Are the Basic Responsibilities of Nonprofit Boards?

board development Feb 23, 2021

Let’s take a step back and look at all the duties of a board before we talk specifically about fundraising.

 Determine the Organization’s Mission and Purpose

A statement of mission and purpose should articulate the organization’s goals, means, and primary constituents served. It is the board’s responsibility to create the mission statement and review it periodically for accuracy and validity. Each individual board member should fully understand and support it. (Goals and purpose can be reviewed, but mission does not change.)

Select the Executive

Boards must reach consensus on the executive director’s job description and undertake a careful search process to find the most qualified individual for the position.

Support the Executive and Review Executive’s Performance

The board should ensure that the executive director has the moral and professional support needed to further the goals of the organization. The executive director in partnership with the entire board should decide upon a periodic evaluation of the executive director’s performance.

Ensure Effective Organizational Planning

As stewards of an organization, boards must actively participate with the staff in an overall planning process and assist in implementing the plan’s goals.

Ensure Adequate Resources

One of the board’s foremost responsibilities is to provide adequate resources for the organization to fulfill its mission. The board should work in partnership with the executive director and staff to raise funds from the community.

Manage Resources Effectively

The board, in order to remain accountable to its donors and the public, and to safeguard its tax-exempt status, must assist in developing the annual budget and ensure that proper financial controls are in place.

Determine and Monitor the Organization’s Programs and Services

The board’s role in this area is to determine which programs are the most consistent with an organization’s mission and to monitor their effectiveness.

Enhance the Organization’s Public Image

An organization’s primary link to the community, including constituents, the public, and the media, is the board. Clearly articulating the organization’s mission, accomplishments, and goals to the public, as well as garnering support from important members of the community, is an important element of a comprehensive public relations strategy.

Assess Its Own Performance

By evaluating its performance in fulfilling its responsibilities, the board can recognize its achievements and reach consensus on which areas need to be improved. Discussing the results of a self-assessment at a retreat can assist in developing a long-range plan.

What Are the Responsibilities of an Individual Board Member?

  • Attend all board and committee meetings and functions, such as special events.
  • Be informed about the organization’s mission, services, policies, and programs.
  • Review agenda and supporting materials prior to board and committee meetings.
  • Serve on committees and offer to take on special assignments.
  • Make a meaningful personal financial contribution to the organization.
  • Inform others about the organization.
  • Suggest possible nominees to the board who can make significant contributions to the work of the board and the organization.
  • Keep up to date on developments in the organization’s field.
  • Follow conflict of interest and confidentiality policies.
  • Refrain from making special requests of the staff.
  • Assist the board in carrying out its fiduciary responsibilities, such as reviewing the organization’s annual financial statements.

Following are some personal characteristics to consider when seeking new board members or analyzing current board members:

  • Are they able to listen, analyze, think clearly and creatively, and work well with people individually and in a group?
  • Are they willing to prepare for and attend board and committee meetings, ask questions, take responsibility and follow through on a given assignment, contribute personal and financial resources in a generous way, open doors in the community, and evaluate themselves?
  • Are they willing to develop skills they do not already possess, such as to cultivate and solicit funds, cultivate and recruit board members and other volunteers, read and understand financial statements, and learn more about the substantive program area of the organization?
  • Do they possess honesty; sensitivity to and tolerance of differing views; a friendly, responsive, and patient approach; community-building skills; personal integrity; a developed sense of values; concern for your nonprofit’s development; and a sense of humor?

The board resource committee is also responsible for ensuring that the position descriptions are not glossed over during the recruitment process and for making sure that each potential board member understands the roles and responsibilities of board service. Members of this committee must be expected to deal with potential board members who are obviously reluctant to accept these responsibilities. It is better to turn away prospective board members who are not willing to accept their full responsibilities, including that of fundraising, than to “fill a seat with a warm body” just so the committee can say it has met its expectation to bring on a certain number of new board members each year. The reluctant prospective board member may instead be invited to serve on a committee or in some other volunteer position rather than be invited to serve on the board.

So, all this is designed to help you recruit the right board members.

If you want to learn more about building your board, and help them understand their roles and responsibilities, take my course, Build a Great Board, Sign up here

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