Anyone who has a passion for a cause, idea, or industry, will often be a potential member of the board. However, it is still a mistake to assume that new board members will automatically know what is expected of them. Let’s talk about the 10 parts of the board member role.
It’s a good idea to lay down some expectations from the outset, and to make doing so a matter of policy. That way, no one feels singled out when we address shortfalls. Laying out your expectations from the starting gate is a good way to make sure everyone is on the same page. It also eliminates room for excuses when members are called out for not carrying their weight.
That said, here are:
10 Core Responsibilities of the Board Member Role
- Understand Internal Policy and Legal Issues– Every board of directors needs to understand internal policy and the legal implications of your organization at least in summary. Raising money comes with a lot of legal implications, especially when charity is involved. So make sure everyone knows where the lines are.
- Attend Board Meetings– All too often, board members take on an attitude where they seem to think board functions are not to be taken seriously. While they may not be compensated for their time and effort, boards exist for a reason and must fulfill their function. There are benefits to being on the board. Make sure everyone appreciates those benefits.
- Standards of Care– Everyone should make sure to understand all matters on the agenda. Participation in discussions and sharing experience are a big part of why you choose someone for a role on the board. Fulfilling these duties are part of acting in good faith for any board member.
- Care & Loyalty– Many states have laws on the books that require board members to assume a fiduciary responsibility to the served population. This means acting in good faith and working for the benefit of those you serve, never against it.
- Rules of Order– Members should understand the rules of order during meetings. The rules of conduct during meetings are established for a reason and facilitate fruitful conversation. Observing the rules of order shows decorum and respect for the organization.
- Confidentiality– In executive sessions and meetings which discuss affairs pertaining to specific beneficiaries of your organization confidentiality is key. In most regards, the law is very clear about issues of confidentiality and related concerns should be taken very seriously.
- Legal Reporting Responsibilities– All tax related filings must be done completely and on time. This is the responsibility not only of the treasurer, but of everyone who performs fundraising operations.
- Management, Not Micromanagement– Board members are not meant to engage in trench warfare. They should delegate to staff, not micromanage. Micromanagement is disrespectful and inefficient.
- Advance the Mission of the Organization– While the rules for board members may be decidedly loose, that is by design. Board members are expected to use their freedom to promote the organization’s core mission. They should do so ethically, and transparently.
- The Duty of Satisfaction– While the board serves a mission-critical function, it is also in some regard an honorary position. That is to say, it is a reward to someone who has earned the opportunity to promote the cause they are passionate about in his or her own way. With that privilege should come some measure of satisfaction. If you have a board member who isn’t having fun, maybe she or he should consider moving on.
RELATED: Does Your Board Micromanage the Nonprofit?
To Summarize the Board Member Role
It’s a good idea to print off these expectations and give them to each new board member. That way, they will know what is expected of a board member, as well as when to ask for help. By setting clear expectations from the very beginning, you will clear the way for a productive and collaborative board experience.
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