While a nonprofit governing board is critical to the health of the organization, the board’s role in the work of the organization is not always clear.
BoardSource, the country’s leading authority on nonprofit board governance, has outlined the following roles and responsibilities for nonprofit boards:
- Determine mission and purpose, and advocate for them.
- Select the chief executive.
- Support and evaluate the chief executive.
- Ensure effective planning.
- Monitor and strengthen programs and services.
- Ensure adequate financial resources.
- Protect assets and provide financial oversight.
- Build and sustain a competent board.
- Ensure legal and ethical integrity.
- Enhance the organization’s public standing.
Before we share this list, we ask board members and nonprofit leaders what they think is the most critical role. We often hear “fundraising,” “strategic planning,” or “financial oversight.” Sometimes we hear “mission,” but we don’t often hear “supporting and evaluating the chief executive.”
While all ten roles and responsibilities are fundamental and each one demands understanding, the top three are the most important drivers of success. They answer these critical questions: Why do we exist? Who will lead us? Does that leader have what they need to get us there?
Aligned with the first role and responsibility, we believe that everything flows from mission.
- Do the leaders in your organization know your mission and can they recite it easily to potential donors?
- If your organization is looking for ways to improve fundraising, then does your mission drive the case for support?
- Are your board members fully engaged in the life of the organization based on their passion for mission fulfillment?
- Is the impact of your mission measured, reported, and used to inspire others?
The second and third role and responsibility share the importance of the relationship between the board and the chief executive. Beyond the duties of the search committee, the board must support the work of the chief executive and provide feedback on their performance.
If an organization is not clear on its purpose, then programs and planning efforts struggle. If relationships are not based on trust and respect, then fundraising falters. And when those things happen, neither finances nor board development are stable.
Share this list at your next board meeting and see what conversations develop. We hope that dialogue brings new levels of clarity and commitment.
Article by: Kerri Laubenthal Mollard, Founder & CEO