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What is the Purpose of a Nonprofit Board?

Nonprofit organizations serve the needs of the communities where they exist in a number of ways. First, they serve the cause they set out to serve in their mission statements. Additionally,  nonprofits allow those inclined to participate in charitable giving to serve the community. What is the exact purpose of a nonprofit board in all of this?

Without funding, your charitable nonprofit would vanish overnight- and so would all the good it does. This means your organization needs direction and revenue. Providing those things is the primary function of a board of directors. In order to fulfill these needs, your board has important duties. Sadly, many boards of directors are made up of well-meaning people who do not know what a board is supposed to do. To help with this, here are the five primary duties of the board.

purpose of a nonprofit board

The Primary Purposes of a Nonprofit Board of Directors

Raising Funds

While it would be inaccurate to say that bringing in money is your main goal, it is the horse that pulls your cart. Without sufficient funding, all of the good mentioned above doesn’t happen. So, every member of the board has a responsibility to secure donations in a way that supports (and does not conflict with) your primary mission.

RELATED: How to Raise Funds without “Fundraising”

Program Oversight

The programs that make up your overall organization are run by people, consume resources, and require funding. One of the primary duties of the board of directors is to provide supervision, or oversight, for these programs. The members of the board hold the positions they do because they have relevant resources, experience, and/or influence. Therefore, one or more members of the board should have the requisite background to directly or indirectly provide guidance to the people who run your programs.

Selection of a Chief Executive

While all of the members of your board of directors are created equal, they do not have equal qualifications, inspiration, talents, or resources. So it stands to reason that one of you should hold a leadership position. The chairperson, or chief executive, can be the organization’s founder. Often, it makes more sense to choose the chief based on merit, experience, expertise, and strength of conviction- among other things.

RELATED: Best Practices: Welcoming New Board Members

Planning & Strategy

Because your board of directors is made up of people with extensive experience in the area your organization works to promote- it stands to reason that its members will have the knowledge to plan strategically to benefit and grow the organization. Among the lot of you, there should be a mixture of expertise in a number of fields, including law, regulations, tax law, local history and economy, finance, and so forth. The board should seek out a diversity of expertise so that long-term planning is possible. With the prominence of the Internet, incorporating a digital marketing professional wouldn’t hurt.

Legal Compliance & Ethics

We mentioned above that a legal expert should be part of your team. This person does not need to be a lawyer, necessarily. However, he or she should be familiar with laws and regulations in your field. This person’s job is to help your nonprofit avoid legal and regulatory land-mines that could make mincemeat of your organization.

Finally, it should be mentioned that dedicated involvement is also a key responsibility of members. Your recruitment process should endeavor to secure this. Of course, dedicated involvement is one of the most difficult resources to curate. Keep in mind these main purposes of a strong board, and your recruiting will be more clear.


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