If a nonprofit’s founder and CEO are the head of their organization, the board is the neck. A board of directors is responsible for steering an organization to find success and sustainability by offering ethical, legal and professional governance.
Focusing on the big picture, the board is meant to support the day-to-day staff, ensuring they have the resources and knowledge they need to perform at their best. There are plenty of board roles and responsibilities that vary from organization to organization, but their main job is to help their nonprofit succeed.
Basic Responsibilities Of Nonprofit Boards
They have three primary duties that they have to see through.
- A duty of care
- A duty of loyalty and
- A duty of obedience
A duty of care means looking after the nonprofit, making sure that their staff, facilities and other assets are being taken care of with goodwill. The duty of loyalty requires members to stay true to their promise of moving the organization forward. That they are able to recognize bias or disinterest, evaluate it and make a change. Lastly, the duty of obedience is to ensure that the nonprofit is following all the laws and regulations in place and adhering to its mission.
However, depending on the type of organization you have, a board role will most likely go beyond managing your legal duties and assets. They can offer governance and skills on anything that applies to your organization, like marketing, medical assistance, creative work or education.
They contribute to your culture, strategy, financial stability and grow to be your biggest ambassadors. In addition, they are often asked to make a meaningful gift. While this may not be a large number, it should be a meaningful gift in comparison to the board member’s means.
Education and Experience
Often, board members have previous experience working with nonprofits as volunteers or leaders. But there is a chance you have a new board member who is passionate about your organization with little board experience.
Not everyone is familiar with the way boards or even nonprofits function, but luckily, webinars and educational resources are available. It’s hard to ask a volunteer to take time to learn all of this, so having a good onboarding process is a great first step.
is an excellent place to refer to new board members. They have a ton of blog posts and webinars to learn more about board governance. Keep in mind that depending on where you are in the world, there may be some national resources you can pull from, so be familiar with the board policies in your area.
Some tips and Best Practices For Nonprofit Board of Directors
- Consider creating a plan for your board based on the calendar year. What month will your board typically review staff compensation? Build a budget? Find new board members?
- Start your new board members off on the right foot with an orientation program that introduces them to the basic roles and major responsibilities of serving as a nonprofit board member. Don't forget to include those special issues pertaining to your nonprofit's mission, plus information on governance policies.
- In addition to the orientation process, consider using a board member contract to ensure that everyone's on the same page.
- Yes, the role of the board of directors DOES include helping to raise money for the nonprofit! Help board members understand that this usually includes making a personal, meaningful contribution. This can make board members nervous, but they often realize how rewarding this work can be with the proper training and coaching.
- Nonprofit boards usually are volunteer-based, so trust that they are here for the right reasons and celebrate your accomplishments with them.
If you want to learn more about your board roles and responsibilities, we have had some great conversations around board governance on the Fundraising Superheroes podcast.
In one of our latest episodes, Mark Buzan talks about his experience as both a board member and executive director. He has valuable insight into their roles and responsibilities along with how nonprofits can better support their boards.
An effective board starts with communication. A nonprofit board's responsibilities should be to offer support and governance to your nonprofit to the best of its abilities. They adopt the nonprofit organizations they serve, but nonprofit leaders also contribute to a board’s success.
Since COVID has been so unpredictable, the duties and responsibilities of the board are changing. We have interviewed some of the top nonprofit leaders on board governess and recruitment and highly recommend listening to the interviews if you want to strengthen your board.