10 Key Responsibilities of Nonprofit Board Members
You know that board members are a vital part of the success of any nonprofit...but what do they actually do? Their roles may vary from organization to organization, but board members play some role in every nonprofit - and these roles vary even further for advisory board members. In this article, we'll look at the 10 major responsibilities of board members and why they're so important.
Board members are the leadership team of your organization. They are meant to be responsible for overseeing every aspect of the organization from incorporation to budgeting to fundraising to donor relationship management, and even more. So, whether you’ve recently started an organization or trying to find new board members, knowing the key responsibilities of nonprofit board members is important.
This article will detail exactly what responsibilities board members should have within your organization.
1. Develop and Aid in the Nonprofit’s Mission and Vision
Your nonprofit’s mission is the reason it exists. From the beginning, your board members are responsible for forming a mission and a vision statement and ensuring it influences all of the organization’s activities, programs, communications, and culture.
They must also make sure that the decisions they make or approvals they give are always in tandem with these statements. It is their responsibility to prevent any deviation.
2. Attend and Participate in Board Meetings and Discussions
This sounds obvious, but attending and participating in board meetings is vital to being a board member. Board members should attend three-fourths of board meetings. If your members cannot attend most meetings, you’ll need to have some tough conversations.
Traditionally, board members must attend board meetings in person, but thanks to technological advances and our past health crisis, many organizations allow online attendance.
Board attendance is not the only responsibility. Board members must actively participate in board meetings and discussions to be any good to the organization.
It’s best practice for board members to come early and stay late for spontaneous conversations and join committees to share their experience and expertise.
3. Committee Membership
Your board of directors should have several committees to help run the organization and focus on the organization’s needs. A few examples of these committees include –
3.1 Governance committee
A governance committee oversees Board and Executive Director recruitment, orientation, and evaluation.
3.2 Financial committee
These members are responsible for the nonprofit’s financial oversight. Members of this committee should have a solid financial background as they will oversee audits and investments for the organization.
3.3 Fundraising committee
Nonprofits with a fundraising and marketing staff will support all fundraising activities through volunteering, sponsorship, and donation procurement. This committee will develop the fundraising strategy for smaller and volunteer-led organizations, and lead fundraising activities.
4. Hire and Oversee the Executive Director
Many board members assume their responsibility is to manage the organization’s programs and activities. This may be true in volunteer-led organizations, but in most cases, management should be left to the Executive Director.
Boards are responsible for finding this internal leader, setting compensation, and providing adequate assessments throughout their tenure. Since turnover in nonprofits is common, board members should also develop a selection process to use in the future.
5. Recruit and Train New Board Members
The governance committee can help create board job descriptions, training, and orientation material and oversee annual evaluations. All board members are responsible for finding and recruiting new members.
That is not all; along with giving necessary materials, board members must also be available to offer basic training and transfer knowledge to the new hires.
6. Provide Financial Oversight
While the board’s finance committee is responsible for auditing and investment opportunities, all board members must read and understand the nonprofit’s financial reports.
Board members are responsible for reviewing and approving budgets and any major financial decisions. They must also be aware that they may be held personally liable for the organization’s financial issues.
Your nonprofit can purchase professional liability insurance to protect board members if your organization is sued. But if the nonprofit doesn’t withhold taxes on employees’ wages, board members can still be held liable.
7. Strategic Planning
The primary point person for strategic planning depends on your organization. If you are volunteer-led, your board should develop strategic organizational and fundraising plans.
If you have an Executive Director and other staff, they should lead the way. Leave this responsibility to the individuals with the most hands-on experience with your organization’s programs and fundraising.
8. Donate and Fundraise
Nonprofits rely on fundraising to provide programs and services for their community. Another primary responsibility of all Boards of Directors is to collect enough funds to ensure the organization continues.
Many nonprofit bylaws require board members to make personal donations. This is especially true for larger organizations, but there are other ways members can help the organization’s fundraising efforts.
Nonprofits should choose board members based on their experience and relationships. Members can use existing relationships with businesses, donors, and foundations to raise more money. As an organization, you should enable them to take up peer-to-peer fundraising to help raise more money and reach new demographics.
Your board members should also take part in selecting the right donation and CRM tools for your nonprofit. It is a crucial decision and must be a part of your fundraising strategy and annual budget. Here’s Donorbox – a leading online fundraising platform that thrives on its range of simple and powerful features including donation forms, peer-to-peer fundraising, donor management, and more. You can get started for free – Easy on your budget and great for fundraising!
Your board must also attend most of the nonprofit’s fundraising events. Like individual donations, many organizations may expect board members to fill at least one table at an annual gala.
9. Promote Organization to the Community
In addition to fundraising, board members are also responsible for marketing the organization to the community. Much of this responsibility will fall on the board’s chairperson.
The Board Chairperson can attend community group and government meetings and share the nonprofit with these organizations. Other board members can also share the nonprofit’s mission with local business leaders, friends, and families.
Your board members’ personal networks can be a potential donor base you’d want to tap into. It should be your board’s responsibility to leverage opportunities to boost your nonprofit outreach.
10. Maintain Internal Ethics and Accountability
At the start of your nonprofit, the Board of Directors will start with developing the organization’s bylaws. As the organization continues to grow, board members must read and follow your organization’s bylaws and ensure the entire organization is also compliant.
The board is also responsible for complying with local, state, and federal laws. Some of these laws include filing annual tax forms and renewing local and state permits.
If your board is unsure of the most ethical position, they must remember your organization’s mission. By keeping the mission at the center of all organizational activities, they’ll be able to make decisions that are in the nonprofit’s best interest.
Board members have a significant responsibility to the organization and can be a big help or hindrance. To ensure members fully understand their roles and can bring vital experience and relationships to the nonprofit, you should update board member job descriptions, training and orientation materials, and evaluation checklists.
A clear understanding of nonprofit board responsibilities will help keep your board on the same path and allow your organization to continue despite the inevitable loss of board members.
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Kristine Ensor is a freelance writer with over a decade of experience working with local and international nonprofits. As a nonprofit professional she has specialized in fundraising, marketing, event planning, volunteer management, and board development.