This is a guest post from Jeb Banner, founder and CEO of Boardable

New board members often bring a contagious enthusiasm with them to board meetings, and these passionate individuals can breathe life into any nonprofit board. However, newcomers don’t always have sufficient background knowledge to be a catalyst for growth.

It’s up to the executive director and other board leaders to help them understand what exactly they should (and shouldn’t) be doing to drive the mission forward. This way, they can effectively channel their energy into promoting organizational advancement and becoming valuable assets to the board.

Understanding Nonprofit Board Member Responsibilities

Ensuring that new and existing board members fully understand their core obligations will help them pave the way for your cause in a sound, legal manner. 

At Boardable, we’ve worked with thousands of nonprofit boards to simplify board management and amplify their impact in their communities. After years of working with various causes, we’re confident that we have a solid understanding of what capable governance looks like for nonprofits. Based on our knowledge and experience, we’ll walk through seven core responsibilities of nonprofit boards, including:

  1. Ensure effective organizational planning
  2. Provide sufficient resources
  3. Make sure the organization fulfills legal obligations
  4. Provide proper financial oversight
  5. Select and evaluate the executive director
  6. Improve the organization’s public standing
  7. Recruit and orient new board members

As a leader of your nonprofit’s board, it’s up to you to hold members accountable and ensure they follow through on their legal and ethical duties. Ready to learn more about these basic responsibilities and promote good governance practices? Let’s dive in.

1. Ensure Effective Organizational Planning

Organizational planning is perhaps the largest, most time-consuming responsibility held by nonprofit boards. It’s up to your board members to allocate sufficient time in their regular board meetings to make realistic plans that align with the community’s needs and the organization’s mission.

Planning occurs at various levels depending on many circumstances such as the nonprofit’s size and organizational complexity, but most boards focus on creating a comprehensive plan that accounts for each of the following topics:

  • Mission statement and organizational purposes
  • Current programs and services
  • New programs and services
  • Supporter development and retention
  • Staffing (both current and projected)
  • Financial projections, including income and expenditures

Part of effective strategic planning is periodically assessing the organization’s progress toward achieving your previously set goals. Your board management tools may streamline this process by allowing you to monitor measurable goals like fundraising totals and volunteer hours. This way, board members can proactively follow up and ensure the organization’s plans don’t fall behind.

From here, your board and staff directors should meet every three to five years to realign on its strategic plans. This provides enough time for your organization to make progress but is also frequent enough that board members can quickly respond to changes.

2. Provide Sufficient Resources

After developing a comprehensive strategic plan, it’s up to your board to provide sufficient resources in order to stick to those plans. This primarily means fundraising. You should expect board members to become involved in some facet of raising funds for the organization.

Whether they’re leveraging their connections to generate revenue or donating their own money, a board member’s responsibility is to assist in developing and carrying out a fundraising plan. Three primary opportunities for board members to get involved in fundraising include: