What officers and roles does a nonprofit board need to have? Newly formed nonprofits often struggle to determine the “must have” vs. “nice to have,” in terms of structure. The structure that is established in the organization bylaws will guide the nonprofit for the immediate future. A new nonprofit may start with a simple structure that can be changed in the bylaws as the organization grows. Small nonprofits function very well with a Chairperson, Secretary and Treasurer.
The board chair presides at board meetings, appoints people to committees, and holds other board members accountable for attendance at meetings and following through on assignments. If this is an all-volunteer nonprofit, the board chair may double as the executive director. It is important that this nonprofit board role is filled by a qualified and passionate individual.
The secretary has a crucial job. Additionally, this role documents discussion and board decisions in the official minutes of the meeting, and maintains the records of meetings as well. The secretary presents the minutes of the last meeting for review by the board and makes any additions or corrections to assure the accuracy of the minutes. Sending out the meeting agenda and materials before the board meetings is also generally part of the job.
The treasurer takes on a variety of roles in a small nonprofit. Most importantly, the treasurer makes sure that the board has enough financial information to make informed decisions about budget, fundraising, and the financial stability of the nonprofit. Board treasurers also know that not every board member can read a financial statement. A great treasurer encourages questions and finds ways to explain the financials in layman’s terms. Sometimes a treasurer in a small all-volunteer nonprofit is also takes on the role of bookkeeper.
In all nonprofits, internal controls in terms of handling and recording financial transactions are a crucial function. Obviously, one person should not be responsible for all aspects of handling receipts and paying bills. For the protection of the nonprofit and the board member, hiring an outside bookkeeper or at the very least having two people review transactions is important.
Nonprofits sometimes struggle to find the right balance of board member talents. Start with covering these vital roles, and gradually fill in other skill sets as you go. As long as you are furthering the mission, other people will be excited to join your board!
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