Carol Friedman sums it up beautifully in her recent blog post: Just Showing Up Isn’t Enough: Defining Your Board’s Job, and has been kind enough to share it with us here.
Your Board of Directors is the heart and soul of your nonprofit organization – carrying the responsibility for prudent fiscal management, overseeing programs that fulfill your mission, and defining organizational focus. But board members cannot do their job if they don’t know their roles and responsibilities.
So here are some basics of the job:
Mission: The board is responsible for defining the organization’s mission and what it strives to accomplish. This mission serves as a guide to organizational and program planning, board and staff decision-making, volunteer initiatives, fundraising and outreach, and setting priorities for the future.
Community representation: Your board should represent your community and your clients as you make decisions, and ensure that the membership of the board and its committees is appropriately balanced.
Public outreach: Board members serve as the organization’s ambassadors and advocates, along with overseeing an effective public relations program.
Program Management: The board’s fundamental role is to assure that current and proposed programs are consistent with the mission and of high quality. This also includes developing and approving governance policies in regard to program.
Fundraising: An organization can only be effective if it has funds to meet its purposes. Board members should set fundraising goals, help develop effective fundraising plans, make annual gifts, provide connections to potential donors and other financial resources, and participate actively in annual fundraising events and campaigns.
Planning: The board works in partnership with staff to evaluate strategies and plan for the future. The planning process enables the board and staff to translate the mission of the organization into feasible, measureable goals and objectives.
Legal Compliance: This includes monitoring and updating personnel policies, your policy and procedures manual, and health and safety plan; adherence to local, state, and federal laws (including tax reporting, personnel, health, safety, labor); and adherence to provisions of your bylaws and articles of incorporation.
Financial Management: This encompasses monitoring and understanding the budget, ensuring cash-management controls are in place, overseeing investments and insurance, ensuring that revenues are stable, and encouraging cultivation of resources that are sustainable for the long term.
Executive Director Supervision: Every board should do an annual performance review in order to support the Executive Director, strengthen the relationship between board and staff, and plan for the future. The board also makes final decisions when hiring or firing the chief executive.
Board Recruitment: All boards have a responsibility to identify needs in terms of member experience, skills, influence, diversity, and demographics, as well as taking an active role in recruiting new members. Your board is also responsible for properly orienting new board members and periodically assessing board effectiveness.
One of the biggest mistakes nonprofits make is luring people onto a Board by saying all they have to do is show up for a meeting once a month. Problem is, if that’s what you tell them, that’s usually all you’re going to get. If you want more, you need to ask for more. You need to be upfront, honest, and clear about what the job really entails.
Carol Friedman is not just an accomplished consultant to not for profits, she is also an avid folk dancer (and fan of Mendocino Balkan Camp) and teaches ongoing international folk dance classes in Marin and Sonoma. She graciously allowed us to repost her recent blog post that defines the job of a not for profit Board.