The Sounding Board 🔊 How To Make Digital Fundraising For Boards Accessible & Inclusive feat. Givzey

Two of the most predominant nonprofit struggles are actually very interconnected:

(1) Maintaining board member engagement and 

(2) Reaching fundraising goals. 

Board members who make personal contributions to the organization they represent are more likely to be successful in carrying out the vision and mission. Board members have the opportunity to lead by example so that volunteers and community members can follow suit. On average, only 52 percent of nonprofit boards have 100 percent participation, so we must ask ourselves, “How can I get my nonprofit board members to give?”

What you will learn:

  • How board member engagement and donations are interconnected
  • Strategies for setting donation expectations
  • Board member contribution requirements
  • How fundraising technology can benefit nonprofits

Can’t make it at this time? No worries! Just register and we will send you the replay.

Watch Video Instantly

Why Your Board Needs A Board Portal

Using digital technologies for board governance is an essential step for businesses today. When incorporating virtual meetings and other technology into all aspects of board governance, the benefits outweigh any potential downside. Board portals offer secure online spaces for meetings, information sharing, and many other tasks associated with board responsibilities.

Board software solutions include searchable, up-to-date instant access to information. The information is viewable through secure role-based access. Utilizing board portals, a secure web-based platform such as an app or a website, allows a board of directors to share their board books digitally. Some board members may be hesitant to take this sensitive information to an online platform. Board portals are proving to reduce the risk and added expense associated with paper board books.

Researching board portal software solutions is essential to finding the right solution for your company. A board portal comparison will show which features each platform includes. For example, Boardable’s all-in-one platform includes:

E-signatures are a critical component of a board portal. This vital feature can save board members valuable time and allow the board to function more effectively, which can be particularly important for those in the nonprofit sector. A board portal for nonprofits must have efficient capabilities. Nonprofits are often under urgent time constraints with their board and organization. The best nonprofit board portal will have one location for all board work.

Product screenshot of e-signatures

Board portal software can include legal e-signatures and real-time collaboration. Nonprofit boards and corporate boards run in similar ways. Yet, a significant difference involves compensation. Corporate board members are often paid employees or receive a compensation package for their service to the board. Nonprofit boards are usually not compensated. Keeping uncompensated board members engaged is a benefit of using a board portal.

Best Board Portals

Traditionally the board of directors meets in person one to four times a year. Committees then conduct business throughout the year, meeting more often and carrying out different tasks. These tasks often require paperwork and signatures. Boards are responsible for sensitive information that must be kept confidential. Moving important information and interactions online can be intimidating. It may be challenging to change the mindset of board members who are unfamiliar with board portals or may even be asking, “what is board management software?”

The best board portals have several features necessary for security and efficiency. The best board management software includes secure permissions. Permission capabilities limit access to information to only relevant committee members. Another critical security feature when researching board management software comparison is versioning control. Version control makes it easy to see what changes are made to documents and identify who made them.

Document Center product screenshot, privacy detail.

Small nonprofits have boards that must make mission-critical decisions. Using board management software for small nonprofits is an excellent way to expedite mission-critical decisions and carry them out. Board software solutions offer a way to meet any time, anywhere. Also, the best board portals allow board members to access essential information whenever it may be needed. Virtual collaboration can be especially empowering for small nonprofit boards of directors. Quick action in the nonprofit sector can make a big difference in mission-critical work.

Board Management Software

Board management software provides a secure online space that works as a digital boardroom. A board portal facilitates a collaborative platform. On this platform, the board of directors can meet, access documents, create agendas, and exchange information. In addition, secure online voting is vital as boards meet online. These functions allow ideas and decisions to become official. Creating a digital platform for board members empowers the board and the organizations they serve to take efficient action.

When researching board portals conducting a board management software comparison is crucial. Understanding how a board portal works will help you decide which platform to use for your company or organization. Boardable meets or exceeds expectations when it comes to functionality for board governance.

Board Portal Solutions

Board management software solutions provide a platform to help with all aspects of board governance and management. Board portal solutions are part of a board management software that helps organizations save time and enhance meeting effectiveness by streamlining collaboration efforts and decision-making processes. These software solutions are essential for boards, committees, and executive leadership teams.

Changing your mindset about what is secure in today’s world can be a challenge. When traditional boards meet in person, they may be trading paper documents and obtaining in-person signatures. Now, all board functions can be accomplished online through secure board portals. Understanding that paper documents are easily lost or placed in the wrong hands helps board members feel more confident about moving forward in a digital space.

Boards, committees, and executives can use a board portal solution for secure content sharing, thus eliminating risky email chains or cumbersome paper documents. All members of a committee can access and read documents simultaneously. A board portal management software solution uses current technology to help board members access what they need any time, anywhere. Certain features such as strict permissions and viewable change histories add another layer of security for sensitive information.

There are many benefits of using a board portal management solution. Centralized access to tools and information, quick meeting preparation, better governance, strong security, and paperless management help boards govern effectively. Today’s digital marketplace demands more attention from board members. Board portal solutions provide a way for board members to fulfill their responsibilities to satisfy their employees, organizations, and investors.

Agenda Builder product screenshot

Best Board Portal Software

Transitioning board meetings and responsibilities to a digital platform is critical in a world where most people work remotely and almost all business is conducted online. It is time for the board room to operate in a digital space. The question is, how? Board management software is a solution designed to help organizations digitize the board of directors and all committees, functions, and responsibilities. The first step is having an understanding of what is board management software? It is an online platform specifically designed to help with all aspects of board governance and management.

Product screenshot for Real Estate industry - meeting details

Board Portal Pricing

The decision to take your board from in-person to online involves extensive research. Board management software comparison will include board portal pricing. Moving board responsibilities online may require an entire shift in mindset. Boards are often composed of people from different backgrounds and technical skill levels. This may make online platforms seem intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be complicated. Board management software reviews are valuable resources when considering which board portal software to use. Choosing a solution that offers onboarding help and ongoing support is crucial for the long-term success of this transition.

Boardable is here to support all of your board portal needs. Our team would love to talk with you further about how we can streamline your organization. Schedule a demo today.

Board Governance 101

Board Governance 101

In general, governance refers to the implementation of policies, procedures, and processes by which an organization is being governed. Governance is not a singular system, but rather composed of various key components and includes multiple actors or stakeholders, each with their own distinct roles and responsibilities.

When it comes to nonprofit organizations, their success is determined not only by the qualities and skills of the upper management and personnel but also by the competencies of board members in charge of governance.

Board members are expected to promote a strong company identity among employees when fulfilling their board member responsibilities in nonprofit governance. Employees’ level of knowledge of their company and their behavior are shaped by organizational identity. Other governance board responsibilities include ensuring that the organization has sufficient resources to carry out its goals and vision. Another is to provide oversight and responsibility in order to guide the organization toward a sustainable future.

Regarding the governance roles and responsibilities in a nonprofit governance structure, here are the 10 basic responsibilities of board members:

  • Ensure that strategic planning is in line with the organization’s vision, develop a mission statement, and define the organization’s purpose
  • Identify appropriate candidates, conduct interviews, hire the most qualified chief executive, as well as define the job expectations for the position
  • Review and approve the budget and project expenses to ensure that they are reasonable in light of the organization’s financial performance and economic activity
  • Determine if the organization has sufficient resources to carry out its mission as well as ensure appropriate stewardship
  • Conduct a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) analysis for short- and long-range planning for the organization
  • Comply with laws and legal standards
  • Manage the organization’s assets and use them to generate value for the stakeholders
  • Identify and recruit new board members and appraise boardroom performance
  • Develop a reputation management strategy and establish shareholder engagement
  • Strengthen programs and services, evaluate their effectiveness, and make sure they stay in line with the mission and goals of the organization

A governance committee checklist outlines the main responsibilities of a government committee, which is usually made up of no more than five board members. The governance committee structure ensures that the board is operating at peak efficiency and that board processes are being followed.

Board Governance Framework

A corporate governance framework is a set of guidelines for the board of directors on how to conduct business in a transparent and trustworthy manner that benefits all stakeholders. The rules, procedures, and processes by which a company is regulated and controlled are included in a corporate governance framework template. A governance framework template, or a governance framework diagram, might come in handy. This might be helpful when constructing a model that describes the board’s objectives and responsibilities, as well as key organizational processes.

The Deloitte Governance Framework was created to assist organizations in identifying opportunities where they may improve their effectiveness and efficiency. The Deloitte Governance Framework may help reduce the risk of important board tasks being overlooked. This framework also establishes the functions and responsibilities of an effective governing board. A good governance framework can be used to assess governance processes and may help prevent organizational oversight.

What are the elements of a governance framework? A governance framework consists of various elements. For example, it may include project management contracts and agreements between the organization and stakeholders. It may also offer suggestions for balancing opposing stakeholder interests through the development of corporate social responsibility guidelines. Finally, it may provide recommendations to ensure proper information flow and to maintain checks and balances.

Board Governance Best Practices

Board governance is critical to an organization’s success. In general, board governance refers to a set of principles, methods, and processes that are required to make strategic decisions in the organization’s best interests while also providing oversight and accountability. It is important to note that board governance best practices may change over time, which means that the corporate governance best practices 2020 may no longer be applicable in a few years.

When it comes to board governance best practices, here are a few practices that can be adapted and implemented right away:

  • Set a time limit for board meetings – This means that board meetings may not exceed the agreed time limit without the unanimous approval of the board members. This can help board members focus on the meeting agenda and prioritize the most important topics for discussion.
  • Engage with board members at informal gatherings – Getting to know board members in a relaxed setting can help foster positive relationships among members and promote trust.
  • Conduct virtual or hybrid meetings – Virtual or hybrid meetings can help facilitate transparency and shared understanding among team members. Online meetings can also help organizations maintain performance and ensure collaborative decision-making even in a remote setting.
  • Utilize dashboard reports – Dashboard reports can measure critical variables within an organization. In addition, a data dashboard can keep everyone in the organization up to date on what is going on and make data-driven decisions.
  • Conduct a process check – Board evaluations can help enhance board effectiveness, strengthen the board’s relationship with management, and bring in mutual accountability for the individual behaviors of board members.

Board Governance vs Management

Although the terms governance and management are sometimes used interchangeably, there is a difference between nonprofit board governance vs management. To illustrate the relationship between governance and management, governance is concerned with setting rules and giving required guidelines to steer an organization’s direction. Management, on the other hand, is concerned with making decisions at various levels to bring about the desired change.

Regarding the difference between board of directors and management, the board of directors ensures that the organization is on the right track. They help oversee the entire organization by addressing broader, mission-focused activities. The management, meanwhile, is responsible for the organization’s day-to-day operations and is expected to carry out the decisions made by the board of directors. In a nutshell, the relationship between board of directors and management is that the board of directors delegates responsibilities to the board of managers, and the management fulfills the roles assigned to them.

Board Governance Best Practices Nonprofit

What is board governance? Board governance definition refers to the framework that gives structure to a board and how it operates. Board governance defines the roles and responsibilities of board members and executives.

To illustrate the difference between nonprofit board governance vs management, governance pertains to the duties and responsibilities of the board of directors, while management is concerned with the organization’s daily operations. Governance answers the “what” questions such as what the organization does and what kind of organization it is developing into. Management, however, is concerned about “how” the plans and works of the organization may be delivered to its intended beneficiaries.

By using the best practices checklist for nonprofits, organizations may be able to assess their strengths and weaknesses and how to achieve growth. Organizations may also refer to the best practices of highly effective nonprofit boards as a reference for how their nonprofit board can operate more effectively. Identifying nonprofit policies and procedures as well as setting realistic goals to achieve the mission of the organization, are essential components of any organization’s success.

Here is a list of the five most common nonprofit board governance models:

  • Advisory Board Model – The advisory board brings professional skills and talents to provide guidance and recommendations to the governing board of directors. Nonprofit organizations may have one or more advisory boards.
  • Cooperative Governance Model – A cooperative governance model provides all members an equal vote. This model is particularly useful for nonprofit organizations with no assigned president or chief executive or without major shareholders.
  • Policy Board Model – In this model, the board of directors is second to the CEO in terms of overall influence. This model separates the CEO and the board of directors as independent entities, allowing boards of directors to fulfill their accountability obligations to the organizations they govern.
  • Patron Governance Model – This model is similar to the Advisory Board Model, but with a few differences. The board members, for example, have less power over the chief executive officer than in the Advisory Board Model. In addition, in a Patron Governance Model, board members are primarily concerned with fundraising. Board members donate their own funds to the organization and persuade others in their network to do so as well.
  • Management Team Model – Different committees for each board function may be established by a nonprofit organization with a management team model. This indicates that the nonprofit follows the same processes as a for-profit business.

Board Governance Consulting

A nonprofit organization can benefit greatly from the services of a certified nonprofit consultant. When performing their functions, nonprofit board governance consultants may face various challenges. These include managing endless emails for board communications, tracking missing files and association records, holding meetings without a clear agenda, and accomplishing little, as well as accountability and oversight issues. 

Organizations can learn from high-performing nonprofits such as McKinsey when developing their growth strategies. The McKinsey governance model, for example, may provide insight into how nonprofits may fulfill high professional and ethical standards. In addition, in order to improve board effectiveness, it may be good to consider the McKinsey board of directors’ client selection policies and the McKinsey advisory board to enhance board effectiveness.

Moreover, adopting new technologies and digital solutions such as a board management platform can allow nonprofit organizations to better manage their board members, enabling them to accomplish mission-critical tasks more effectively.

Boardable’s all-in-one platform can support organizations with their board operations and streamline board governance. For example, Boardable Spotlight is a fully integrated video conferencing system that can help organizations run successful virtual and hybrid meetings for improved board member engagement and collaboration. Get started for free today.

Tips & Best Practices for Associations

If you want to run a successful nonprofit association board, management should be structured so that each board member has their own unique set of responsibilities. Board members behave like a governing body and form a board of directors. So, what are the positions on a board of directors for a nonprofit? At Boardable, we recognize the roles and responsibilities of a board of directors in corporate governance as being divided into four leadership categories: chairperson, vice-chair, secretary, and treasurer. You can learn more about a board of directors’ roles and responsibilities, or keep reading for more information about the role of a board of directors in nonprofit organization settings.

Besides the different leadership positions, you can also have multiple types of board of directors based on the model of board governance you decide to use. We have identified six main types of governance models: advisory, patron, cooperative, policy, community engagement, and hybrid. No matter which board model you choose, there are usually a few common best practices to keep in mind, as following them will help you maintain a proactive board. For example, you can regularly survey your board about its needs, keep job descriptions for the board up to date, form succession plans, and have a way, method, or system you can use to assess the success of your board as a whole.

Additionally, the typical association has specific nonprofit (i.e. 501c3) board of directors’ rules that either focus on resolving issues or answering recurring questions. Some of these policies are based on things like whistleblowing, conflicts of interest, gift acceptance, and item acceptance. A policy that can address potential conflicts of interest is especially crucial if you want to avoid compromising your organization’s trust with the public. Breaking this trust could not only damage your association’s credibility but also stall the momentum towards accomplishing your goals.

Nonprofit Board Structure Chart

The typical nonprofit board structure chart or nonprofit organizational chart is topped by four leadership positions, one of which is the board chair, which oversees the entire board of directors and corresponding committees to make sure the nonprofit is on track to reach its goals. The board chair also takes fiduciary responsibility when it comes to monitoring donations to the organization, large gifts given to the organization, and employee payroll.

Other nonprofit board of directors’ positions in leadership includes vice-chair, secretary, and treasurer. These roles are usually included even in a small nonprofit board structure chart or nonprofit organization structure template. Underneath these leadership roles, board committees can also be formed. The board committee structure, roles, and responsibilities vary based on your board’s needs, and they can help you divide up the workload equally across the board. You might consider that having an appropriate number of committees is one of the multiple best practices of highly effective nonprofit boards because they can make your goals and responsibilities easier to manage.

Association Of Governing Boards

Boards are not confined to only nonprofit organizations. There are lots of industries whose organizations can benefit from forming these boards, such as those in the for-profit, trade, education, and healthcare sectors. These organizations tend to be mission-driven, and they can make use of boards to accomplish their goals.

You may be familiar with the AGB, formally known as the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges (Glassdoor’s company overview) or simply the Association of Governing Boards. You may also be familiar with a similar organization called the ACCT, whose full name is the Association of Community College Trustees (sometimes referred to as the Association of College Trustees). These are some examples of organizations of governing boards in higher education.

An AGB search turns up the AGB website, which says it is an organization that empowers college, university, and similar boards to engage in association governance confidently. Somewhat of a board of universities, the AGB (and similarly, the ACCT) focuses on supporting each university governing board associated with its organization. These organizations highlight the importance of school boards in general and their impact. This is just one type of candidate that could benefit from a board management solution and use it to improve their school board experience overall.

Association Of Governing Boards Of Universities And Colleges

A simple focused AGB search for the AGB group (the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges) shows that in some ways, it could be seen as a kind of “board of universities”. The Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges describes itself as an organization that supports a variety of governing boards in higher education by providing resources, hosting educational events, and offering consulting services. The ACCT or Association of Community College Trustees (i.e. Association of College Trustees) is an organization with similar goals.

Circling back to the idea of a board of directors (in the context of nonprofit organizations) previously mentioned, you can also take note that a college governing body is normally called a board of trustees (rather than directors). Even though every board is different and the purpose of each board varies, the typical university board of trustees’ responsibilities and the usual board of directors’ responsibilities are all rooted in practical, legal, and ethical duties. Organizations like the AGB and ACCT exist to support the boards of trustees of different universities so those institutions can check off all of their responsibilities as boards. Likewise, our services are designed to further support educational boards, just on the software front.

10 Basic Responsibilities Of Board Members

You will see that there are several board member roles and responsibilities that show up in both nonprofit and for-profit boards. This rounds out to about 10 basic responsibilities of nonprofit boards or 10 basic responsibilities of board members in general. For most boards, the basic ideas behind nonprofit board member roles and responsibilities are not very different from other board member responsibilities (for-profit organization duties).

To start, what are the 3 primary responsibilities of board members? These basic board member duties, also known as core legal responsibilities, include the duties of care, loyalty, and obedience. For the most part, these duties exist to ensure your board stays trustworthy and effective.

Adding onto these core responsibilities, board members are also expected to follow a few standards: 

  • Advance the mission of the organization
  • Fulfill legal and fiduciary responsibilities
  • Prepare for meetings
  • Hire and oversee the executive director
  • Recruit new members
  • Adopt reliable communication tools
  • Serve on committees

Beyond these standards, you will also find certain policies connected to nonprofit board of directors’ roles and responsibilities. If you are wondering who should NOT serve on a board of directors, it is safe to assume that it would be anyone who is unable or unwilling to follow these guidelines.

Board Member Roles

As a refresher, what are the 3 primary responsibilities of board members? First, the duty of care is about how members should commit themselves to fulfil their promises and assisting the organization as much as they can. Second, the duty of loyalty highlights how members should also act as ambassadors for the organization by supporting its work and embodying its mission; this includes setting personal interests aside. Third, the duty of obedience says that members are obligated to follow the guidelines of the organization as they are listed in its governance documents.

Nonprofit board of directors positions and board member roles, in general, are heavily influenced by the core tenets or duties we just mentioned. The list of basic board member responsibilities (for-profit organizations excluded) goes on to include the qualities of a good nonprofit board member. This kind of person is:

  • Passionate about the cause
  • Eager to participate
  • Prepared for events
  • Excited for committees
  • Expressive of ideas
  • Curious to learn
  • Desires stewardship
  • Creative
  • Communicative and/or cooperative

Board Member Positions Nonprofit

While the board member responsibilities (for-profit vs nonprofit) may differ from organization to organization, every for-profit and nonprofit board of directors serves as a force of governance above all else. This is the reason why many board member positions (nonprofit and for-profit) in terms of leadership are nearly identical. You can sum up the main for-profit and nonprofit board member roles and responsibilities as the positions of chair, vice-chair, secretary, and treasurer. 

Perhaps you are interested in becoming a board member or learning about volunteer board member positions, and you are considering looking up “nonprofit board positions near me”. You may want to keep a few things in mind as you continue along your journey. First, remember the 3 core responsibilities that apply to every board member. Second, know the other 7 standards that a potential board member such as yourself would be expected to follow. When you feel confident and ready to fulfill all of these responsibilities, revisit and review the qualities of a great nonprofit board member. Do these qualities fit your description, character, and personality? If they do, you can move on to thinking about which role you see yourself as being best suited for in your preferred organization.

At Boardable, we understand the roles and responsibilities of a board of directors. This is why we created a board management platform that encompasses the entire meeting lifecycle that will increase board engagement and collaboration. Start free today with Boardable.

The Complete Guide to Board Member Roles & Responsibilities

You may see them as considerably different, but nonprofit and for-profit organizations actually share quite a bit in common. Both types of organizations have defined goals and purposes, along with a variety of stakeholders they have to satisfy, whether customers or donors. One of the most important elements that both of these organizations share is having a board of directors or trustees.

While the nature of the relationship between an organization’s staff and its board varies across organizations, all boards have practical, legal, and ethical duties. These board member responsibilities ensure proper oversight and enable the organization to make consistent progress toward its mission.

By understanding where each board member fits into this picture, you can better empower your board members to take control of their roles and support your organization’s activities to the best of their ability.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about common board member roles and responsibilities, including:

Your board steers your organization toward a sound future by ensuring that it’s fulfilling its mission in the most effective way possible. Setting expectations upfront will lay the groundwork for an effective team that understands exactly what it needs to be doing. Plus, there won’t be any room for excuses when members are called out for not carrying their weight. Let’s dive in.

What Are the Different Board Member Roles and Responsibilities?

You’d never apply for a job with no idea of what the role entails. So why ask your board officers to do the same? Before you can start writing guidelines for your board’s leaders, you need to understand those general responsibilities yourself. Let’s explore common board member roles and their corresponding duties.

Board Member Role #1: Chairperson

To function effectively, every group needs a passionate leader. Your chairperson—also commonly referred to as the president—serves as your chief elected officer. As the leader of your board, there are many responsibilities that this individual takes on.

Here are a few duties that are commonly assigned to the chairperson:

  • Presides at board meetings
  • Creates a purposeful agenda in collaboration with the executive director or CEO
  • Appoints people to committees and assigns committee chairs
  • Serves as the contact for board issues
  • Sets goals and objectives with the board and ensures they are met
  • Holds members accountable for attending meetings
  • May take on some CEO responsibilities if the organization is comprised of all volunteers

It’s important that this board role is filled by a qualified and passionate individual. Your chairperson should be approachable and an objective listener. They should be a strategist with a deep well of knowledge about your organization. Selecting a well-rounded and respected chairperson will prove invaluable to your team.

Board Member Role #2: Vice-Chair/Chair-Elect

The vice-chair—also commonly referred to as the chair-elect or the vice president—generally offers support for the board chair and other leadership when needed. Think of the vice-chair as the future leader of your organization’s board.

The vice-chair tackles the following duties:

  • Prepares to assume the office of the board chair
  • Fulfills the board chair’s duties when the presiding officer is absent or if that office becomes vacant
  • Assists the board chair in the execution of his or her duties
  • Serves on committees as requested to learn the operations of the board
  • Works closely with the board chair to transfer knowledge and history to prepare for leadership

Ideally, this board member role will be filled by someone who possesses similar qualifications as the current presiding officer. They’ll be able to step up whenever necessary.

Board Member Role #3: Board Secretary

The role of a board secretary is critical for the smooth operations of the board. Most commonly, this individual ensures that board members are given appropriate notice of meetings and proactively records these meetings. However, their duties extend beyond this and vary from organization to organization.

Some of the day-to-day responsibilities of board secretaries are as follows:

  • Assures that an agenda has been prepared by the board president and/or CEO and that the agenda is distributed in advance of the meeting
  • Oversees the distribution of background information for agenda items to be discussed
  • Prepares the official minutes of the meeting and records motions, discussions, votes, and decisions
  • Prepares and provides the previous meeting’s written minutes to board members before the next meeting and records any changes or corrections
  • Assures that documents (bylaws, Form-990, roster of board members) are accessible to members (Pro Tip: Boardable’s Document Center feature is a big help here!)
  • Schedules and notifies board members of upcoming meetings
  • Holds members accountable for their tasks

A board secretary has to be on top of every task, which also means that this individual needs a fluid set of skills. Some desirable qualities for this position include strong communication skills and the ability to organize and prioritize tasks. This extremely driven and detail-oriented individual should also be well-versed in administrative work.

For a smaller organization, the secretary could be just about anyone who is able to learn quickly and juggle many things. For larger organizations, the secretary is more likely to have a bachelor’s degree and to have served in a secretary position before. Often, this person acts as the executive director’s administrative assistant and prepares board meeting documents, too.

Board Member Role #4: Treasurer

The board treasurer deals with the organization’s finances and makes important decisions regarding spending and investing. This role is a demanding and engaging one, with a lot of responsibility and opportunity to initiate change.

A treasurer typically takes on the following responsibilities:

  • Reconciles bank accounts and produces financial statements, which they present at board meetings
  • Ensures tax-related documents and legal forms are filed on time, such as the documents required to maintain a nonprofit organization’s tax-exempt status
  • Serves as chair of the finance committee and financial officer of the organization
  • Manages, with the finance committee, the board’s review of and action on its financial responsibilities
  • Assists the chief executive or the chief financial officer in preparing the annual budget and presenting it to the board for approval
  • Reviews the annual audit and answers board members’ questions

Usually, a board treasurer should be someone who already has experience in bookkeeping or accounting — but that’s not always necessary. A board treasurer may simply be someone who is highly trustworthy since they’ll be responsible for producing financial statements and handling the organization’s funds.

In larger organizations, the board treasurer may be in charge of staff who will directly manage the organization’s finances. Conversely, in smaller organizations, the board treasurer is more likely to do everything on their own.

Nonprofit Board Member Roles

The very first step is to outline the different types of nonprofit board member roles before writing guidelines. The most common roles include chairperson, vice-chair, board secretary, and treasurer. These roles are necessary to assist with the success of your organization. Once the roles have been established, upload them to Boardable’s document center, where board members can easily find and view them for full transparency.

The Basic Board Member Duties

No matter what your mission is or what expertise your members bring, any board member must fulfill three specific core legal responsibilities. The following duties are adopted across many organizations and should be expected of your board members to maintain your board’s trustworthiness and effectiveness.

1) Duty of Care

Being a board member is more than a résumé builder. Members should be committed to following through on promises and assisting the organization to the best of their abilities. This means:

  • Attending meetings and actively participating in committees
  • Communicating with the executive director and other board members
  • Following through on assignments
  • Supporting program initiatives

Board members who neglect this prime duty are simply taking up space in the boardroom. Ideally, your entire board is motivated and truly passionate about your mission. As a result, fulfilling the duty of care is easy.

2) Duty of Loyalty

Board members should do more than show up. They should fully support your work, embody your organization’s mission, and be loyal ambassadors for your cause. When acting on behalf of the organization, each board member must put aside their personal and professional interests.

All activities and decisions should be in the best interest of the organization, not in the best interest of the individual board member.

Those who successfully fulfill this duty are those who proactively mingle with volunteers, visit your organization’s facilities, and participate in community initiatives. These individuals fully embrace your mission, not just board service.

3) Duty of Obedience

One of the more subtle board member duties is obedience. The board should do everything in its power to reach organizational goals, but members still have an obligation to follow your organization’s guidelines. These are found in your governance documents, and every board member has a legal responsibility to understand them.

A board that strays from your governance rules could steer your organization in the wrong direction or even impact your reputation and standing in the community.

As the executive director, CEO, or some other board leader, it’s up to you to provide every new board member with these documents and ensure they obey applicable laws and regulations. You might also encourage existing board members to refresh themselves on your guidelines at least once a year. This ensures they understand exactly what they can (and can’t) do.

Nonprofit Board Member Duties

The basic board member duties can be simplified into three legal responsibilities. This includes duty of care, loyalty, and obedience. These should be expected by your board to maintain their trustworthiness and effectiveness. Use Boardable’s platform data to see which board members are fulfilling these responsibilities and optimize your board’s health.

The Most Important Board Member Responsibilities

While each leadership position entails its own responsibilities, there are several duties that each and every board member must complete, regardless of their position. As a whole, your board should adhere to the following seven core responsibilities.

1) Board members should advance the mission of the organization

Your board members are among your organization’s most important advocates. These individuals are the face of your cause and should be expected to use their efforts and abilities to promote your organization’s core mission in an ethical manner.

This responsibility will come naturally to your most enthusiastic board members. All directors should proactively promote your work, attempting to ignite that same passion in others. This pertains not only to their personal and professional networks but to public relations as well. When speaking to the media on behalf of your organization, they should paint it in the best light possible.

Overall, spreading awareness for your mission will promote growth and empower your team to flourish in its work.

There’s a lot at stake when it comes to managing an organization. Every board of directors needs to understand internal policies and the legal implications of your organization’s activities. Failure to do so can result in severe consequences, such as heavy fees.

It’s up to board members to understand federal, state, and local laws that apply to your specific type of organization. Then, they must assure that the organization adheres to those legal obligations.

For instance, all tax-related filings must be done completely and on time, including all annual state and federal tax returns. In the case of nonprofits, registered 501(c)(3) organizations are exempt from income tax, but they must still pay payroll tax, property taxes, and so on. Failure to file the IRS File-990 return three consecutive times can result in revocation of tax-exempt status. Ensuring that it’s been filed is not only the responsibility of the treasurer but of everyone who participates in fundraising operations.

Additionally, boards should be aware of the penalties caused by:

  • Overpaying staff or other individuals
  • Engaging in excessive lobbying or political activities
  • Making egregious bad bargains on behalf of your organization

Many states also implement laws 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.

3) Board members should attend board meetings

It should go without saying that board members should attend and contribute during meetings, whether they’re gathering virtually or in person. After all, this is when they can share their insight, get creative, and have deep conversations about pursuing greater outcomes for your organization. However, many board members fall short of expectations and become too lax with meetings.

Share the following suggestions to establish a much more collaborative (and much less chaotic) boardroom:

  • Review the agenda in advance. Everyone should understand all matters on the agenda heading into the meeting. Participation in discussions is a big part of why you choose someone for a role on the board. Fulfilling these duties is part of acting in good faith for any board member.
  • Adhere to the outlined rules of order. For instance, many organizations adopt Robert’s Rules of Order to maintain order in the boardroom. 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.

To prevent any issues upfront, consider also implementing an attendance requirement, with exceptions for emergencies and other unavoidable situations. After all, members should have sufficient time to give to your organization. Otherwise, they’re not fulfilling their basic duties.

4) Board members must hire and set compensation for the CEO or Executive Director

Hiring and overseeing the executive director or CEO is one of the most important board member responsibilities as it has the greatest impact on the organization’s growth and vitality. The executive director or CEO serves as the gateway between the organization’s staff and board members.

This responsibility is typically assigned to a few board members who oversee the hiring process. Here are the steps these individuals typical follow when overseeing the executive director:

  1. Assess the organization’s needs. Determine your organization’s current strengths and weaknesses. This information will serve well in guiding the selection process. The hiring committee will know exactly which skills and qualifications the next executive director or CEO should have.
  2. Oversee the selection process. Based on the organizational assessment, create a comprehensive job listing, and undergo your search for the most qualified prospects based on the qualifications you set forth. Conduct interviews and narrow down the list. Then, the ultimate decision, including compensation, is up to the entire board.
  3. Provide support and conduct an annual evaluation. After hiring the new executive director or CEO, your board should make sure they have the resources they need. Then, ensure the individual is fulfilling expectations by conducting an annual evaluation, where you assess both quantitative metrics (measurable data like fundraising goal completions) and qualitative metrics (soft skills like leadership and relationship-building abilities).

Regardless of your mission, this process is a crucial component of any board’s responsibilities. Be sure to select passionate and detailed-oriented board members to serve on your hiring committee, and put a process in place for ensuring ongoing success.

5) Board members are responsible for recruiting new members

Your board members are the most knowledgeable on what skills and qualities are missing from the boardroom. By leveraging this insight, they’re highly qualified to locate the next best board members to fill those gaps.

Current board members should constantly be on the lookout for passionate, qualified recruits who will bring additional knowledge, talent, and background experience to the table. Just like with selecting an executive director or CEO, your board is responsible for locating qualified prospects, conducting interviews, and selecting the most qualified candidates.

RELATED: Check out our complete guide to board member recruitment, where you’ll learn all about locating high-quality candidates and optimizing their experience.

Not only should they participate in recruitment, but current board members should also assist in onboarding new directors. For those who are retiring from their positions, this means training their successors. As for those who are returning for another term, this means proactively getting to know new members, ensuring they have access to the board platform, and simply providing a friendly face in the boardroom.

6) Board members should find digital tools to improve communication

As part of the board’s primary responsibilities, they should make the most of their resources and take the necessary steps to ensure proper governance. This means employing exceptional board software like Boardable to enhance communication and conduct highly-efficient meetings.

A little research will lead to excellent tools that automate almost everything the board does. For instance, Boardable is a one-stop app for all your board management tasks with easy-to-use features like:

  1. Meeting management: Automate meeting scheduling, develop impactful agendas, take minutes, and conduct polls—all within one convenient platform. This way, you can conduct highly-efficient meetings that engage your fellow board members and provide ample time for strategic discussions. Best of all, Boardable allows your team to see meeting details from any mobile device!
  2. File sharing: Easily store, organize, and distribute important documents (like financial plans and governing documents). You can even attach documents to specific meetings for quick access during discussions. Plus, Boardable implements privacy features and secure socket layers (SSL) technology, so you know your documents are encrypted and safe.
  3. Task management: Stay up to date on your responsibilities between board meetings with the Task Manager tool. Each individual user can see their assigned tasks and deadlines, making the next steps scannable in a second. Plus, admins can see everyone’s tasks and hold them accountable.

Implementing the right tools frees your board from distractions, allowing everyone to focus on governance, strategy, and other areas that are vital to your mission. A solution like Boardable comes with standout features (like those mentioned above) to boost efficiency.

7) Board members should serve on at least one committee

Most of the board’s work is completed in committees. There simply isn’t enough time for the entire board to have lengthy conversations and research specific issues in depth. Because of this, every board member should serve on a committee, effectively steering your organization toward its goals.

Individuals should be assigned to committees based on past experience, skills, and interests. For instance, a board member who has a background in accounting would be a great fit for the finance committee.

Like with individual board members, each committee should receive a written document that covers its responsibilities, guidelines, and goals. It’s the full board’s responsibility to regularly assess each committee’s success and adjust accordingly.

Nonprofit Board Member Responsibilities

Based on our experience at Boardable your board should adhere to these seven core responsibilities. These include advancing the mission, fundraising for the organization, attending board meetings, evaluating the CEO, recruiting new members, enhancing board communication, and serving on at least one committee. Our Board Engagement Playbook provides additional resources and guidelines to successfully engage board members.

Wrapping Up

Enthusiastic board members can breathe new life into any organization. But, that’s only if they first fulfill their basic responsibilities. As a leader of your board, it’s up to you to ensure your fellow board members understand what they should (and shouldn’t) be doing. This way, they can leverage their skills and direct their energy into advancing your organization’s mission in a sound, legal, and ethical manner.

A board of directors does not exist solely to fulfill legal duties, but rather, they contribute to the organization’s culture, strategic focus, and financial sustainability. A well-functioning board that adheres to its responsibilities is essential to the health and sustainability of any organization.

Based on your solidified knowledge of board member responsibilities, you can now confidently move forward with outlining specific duties for your own organization’s board! Just make sure you’re first backed by exceptional board software to streamline communications and carry out vital board processes efficiently.

Boardable product screenshots inside desktop and phone devices

Elevate Your Board Members

At Boardable, we’re with you when you need to do more for your mission. Our connected meeting experience provides more engaging and effective meetings.

The Complete Board Portal Buyer’s Guide | What to Look For

A board portal is organizational governance software that facilitates secure digital communication and collaboration among members of a board of directors. Common board portal features include messaging capabilities, document storage, digital voting tools, a platform to record meeting minutes, and other tools that streamline day-to-day tasks. This type of software is developed specifically to support boards’ unique needs.

Not all board portal software is created equally, though. Each platform has unique features and comes at different pricing points. This can make it difficult to narrow down your options. You need to take the time to analyze what matters most to your board, so you can select the tools that will promote efficiency and make the board experience more enjoyable, all while staying within your budget.

To help, our board management experts have put together this complete board portal buying guide. Our goal is to help you learn why you need this type of software and what to prioritize in your search. Here’s what we’ll cover:

Here at Boardable, we’re constantly looking for ways to empower today’s board leaders to excel in their roles. We wholly believe that the technology a board uses plays a major role in what they’re able to accomplish. With a better idea of what you should prioritize for your board portal, you’ll be well-equipped to get started in your search and find the right solution.

The 5 Major Benefits of Board Portals

If you’re not convinced that a board portal is a right move, it’s worth it to look into the benefits this type of software can bring to the boardroom. Not to mention, making sure you’re well-versed in the advantages can help you position it as a cost-effective choice and gain buy-in from board members when it comes time to make a purchasing decision.

Board Portal Benefit #1) Centralized and Mobile Access

Your board members will have centralized access to everything they need. After logging into your board portal, they’ll be able to see meeting materials, messages from fellow board members, organizational policies, their assignments, and whatever else they need. Not to mention, mobile access ensures they can access everything on the go, which is ideal for making time-sensitive decisions.

Board Portal Benefit #2) Quicker Meeting Preparation

You know that board meetings are a vital time where board members collaborate and bring powerful insights to the table. Maximize every moment in the boardroom by making sure everyone comes prepared. With a dedicated board portal, here’s what you can expect from a preparation standpoint:

  • Administrators can easily find the best meeting times, then compile and distribute board books within minutes. Not to mention, they can view which directors actually did their prep work.
  • Board members can review meeting documents and double-check that they’ve finished all their assignments ahead of your meeting.

Spend less time talking about what needs to be discussed and more time actually having those discussions thanks to the tools within your board portal.

Board Portal Benefit #3) Better Governance

Board portals empower leaders to uphold and improve their organization’s governance. Board chairs can maintain better control over meetings with the right board portal features, increasing productivity in the boardroom. With dedicated board management tools, you can cover everything on your agenda, seamlessly conduct votes, and protect your board from liability by recording sound minutes.

Outside of the boardroom, review and comment on board documents, and handle action items in a timely manner, increasing everyone’s accountability. You’ll boost engagement and make everyone much more effective in their roles, which are ideal for effective governance.

Board Portal Benefit #4) Strong Security

Anytime you’re dealing with technology, there’s an inherent security risk. Emailing board documents or sharing them with free editions of online file-sharing services pose real security risks. Not to mention, more complicated file-sharing services with more security can be a nuisance for directors to navigate.

Dedicated board portals recognize the unique security challenges boards face and offer protected, user-friendly solutions directly targeted to common board activities. They come equipped with secure socket layers (SSL) protection, enforce password policies, and use encryption to protect sensitive data (such as PCI compliant tools to protect your payment information). That way, you can trust that what happens within your board portal stays between you and your board.

Board Portal Benefit #5) Paperless Management

Paper binders are heavy to lug around. Not to mention, they’re costly to produce for all of your board members. Reduce your carbon footprint and go paperless with your board activities. Board portals make it easy to store your documents online, so your board directors don’t have to worry about keeping up with paper files.

How To Choose The Right Board Portal

Before investing in new technology, you should assess what your board actually needs versus what would be nice to have. This will help make sure you spend every dollar wisely.

When narrowing down your options, make sure your board portal comes equipped with everything your team needs to promote collaboration and improve governance. Let’s take a look at several “must-have” items for boards.

Board Portal Feature #1) Meetings Center

Scheduling and facilitating meetings should be simple. Ensure your board portal comes equipped with meeting management tools that will make sure your team is as efficient as possible in the boardroom. You should be able to do the following:

  • Automate meeting scheduling and notifications. Eliminate the hours-long process of scheduling board and committee meetings. You can propose a range of meeting times, then attendees will pick their choice. You’ll be able to pick the time that’s convenient for as many people as possible.

  • Attach documents and polls to meetings. Board members might need to take a look at a specific document for an upcoming discussion, or maybe you want them to review decision-making items in advance. In either case, make sure you can attach documents and polls to specific meetings so everyone can come prepared.

  • Give users a dashboard of upcoming meetings. Make sure your board members don’t miss a single meeting or preparation item. They should have a dashboard that displays upcoming meetings, where they can quickly review the agenda, scheduled polls, assigned tasks, and more. They should also be able to review past meetings from the dashboard in case they need to take a look at the minutes or other details.

Your meetings are a crucial time for your board. With automated processes within your board portal, you can focus more on preparing for them than finding the best meeting times or manually sending out action items. That way, everyone can focus on governance and strategizing for your mission.

Learn About Our Meetings Center

Board Portal Feature #2) Secure Document Management

Your board handles a lot of documents on a daily basis. What’s more, these documents often have to do with your strategic direction, meaning they need to be protected from unpermitted users. Make sure your board portal solution comes equipped with a secure document center to host all the files your board needs in a central place.

Your board portal’s document management tools should:

  • Use a familiar file-sharing format. Your board won’t want to learn how to manage a complicated document storage system. Make sure your board portal leverages the same types of tools as traditional file-hosting services, such as being able to organize documents into folders and search for the files you need.

  • Offer e-signing capabilities to speed up document signing. Whether you’re approving the minutes or having new members sign agreement forms and policies, e-signatures eliminate the hassle of traditional paper signatures. A board portal with e-signatures will enable you to upload documents, request signatures from specific individuals, and view the status of signatures in one place.

  • Prioritize security. Keep your documents private with extra security features specifically for your resources. Make sure you can restrict access to certain files and folders to keep board and committee documents safe.

Sharing and managing files should be easy. Even if you want to continue leveraging other file sharing services like Dropbox or Google Drive, your board portal can help consolidate those records. When you have a board portal with centralized storage, your board members won’t have to dig through email attachments or worry about sensitive information’s security ever again.

Explore Our Document Center

Board Portal Feature #3) Agenda Builder

Every productive meeting starts with a detailed plan that explains exactly what needs to be covered. Instead of relying on unintuitive word documents, use your board portal to build dynamic agendas within your board portal.

Your software should enable you to:

  • Save agendas as new templates to speed up the planning process for future meetings
  • Assign agenda items to individual users so everyone comes prepared
  • Designate how long each agenda item should take so the meeting stays on track
  • Securely share your agenda as interactive PDFs with attendees

Meeting planning has never been simpler thanks to board portals that offer a designated agenda builder. Not to mention, your secretary should be able to build off of your agenda by using it as a template for the minutes. No need to start minutes from scratch!

Check Out Our Agenda Builder

Board Portal Feature #4) Task Manager

Every productive board meeting winds up producing a lot of assignments. Make sure everyone knows what tasks they’re responsible for completing with your board portal’s task manager. That way, no one comes to the next meeting wondering who was meant to finalize an upcoming campaign’s budget for the board’s approval, take photos at a volunteer event, or finish any other crucial task.

Increase accountability with powerful task management features like:

  • The ability to attach tasks to a specific meeting
  • A dashboard personalized for each user with assigned tasks and due dates
  • The option for account administrators to view tasks so that they can follow up with the appropriate board members

Make sure everyone’s doing their part and being the best board member they can be. With a board portal that offers task management, you can increase each person’s productivity without hassle.

Learn About Our Task Manager

Board Portal Feature #5) Virtual Voting

Your board makes important decisions every day, and paper ballots are a thing of the past. Make sure your board portal enables virtual voting, so you can quickly tally votes and arrive at decisions quickly.

Whether your board members are voting on catering for an upcoming event or finalizing your annual fundraising budget, virtual voting tools allow them to contribute whenever they are needed.

With a board portal that offers virtual voting, it doesn’t matter if they’re joining in person or remotely. They’ll be able to participate and let their voices be reflected in your board’s final decisions. Plus, anonymous voting for sensitive issues makes everyone more comfortable, ensuring no one will feel pressured or uneasy when voting honestly.

Explore Our Virtual Voting Tools

Board Portal Feature #6) Virtual and Hybrid Meetings

Virtual participation is now crucial for boards everywhere. Don’t put your board members in an uncomfortable position by making them attend when they’re sick. And even when they don’t have any health concerns, board members can join remotely when their schedule is packed, so they don’t have to worry about travel time or expenses.

Make sure your board portal comes equipped with virtual meeting tools, enabling you to:

  • Use integrated video conferencing without needing a separate video conferencing app. At the very least, you should be able to integrate with leading video conferencing apps like Zoom.

  • Easily share the agenda and other documents to keep everyone on the same page. No need to toggle through different tabs when everything’s available on one screen.

  • Record clear meeting minutes in real-time, so your secretary can capture ideas, tasks, and decisions without shuffling between multiple tools.

Conducting remote and hybrid meetings is incredibly convenient for your board members, especially when people don’t need a second monitor or multiple open tabs to participate in your meetings.

Check Out Boardable Spotlight

What To Ask Your Board Portal Vendor

When you’ve picked out a few board portals that check off your boxes, how do you select the right one? During your demos with different board portal vendors, make sure you have a list of questions ready.

A few areas you’ll want to inquire about include:

  1. Security. How secure is the board portal? Security is a major factor for any technology your board uses. You’ll want to determine whether your board portal implements state-of-the-art security practices. For instance, Boardable uses Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) certification to encrypt browser data and Amazon Web Services (AWS), which is the highest industry standard for data storage with industry-recognized certifications and audits. Not to mention, we enforce a password policy, preventing users from using any of the top 1,000 most commonly used passwords and requiring passwords to have at least 8 characters. Our team also conducts an annual test where we simulate a cyberattack against our systems to locate any vulnerabilities.

  2. Adoptability. How easy will it be to implement your new software? Will the vendor walk you through how to use it? Do they have support articles or other training materials that will help you navigate your new platform? Your board doesn’t have time to waste. Ask your board portal vendor about how easy it will be for your team to get up and running with the new platform.

  3. Reputation and service. Is the board portal vendor well-known in the space, and do they provide responsive customer service? Beyond initial training, you need to know if your vendor provides customer service to help overcome any complications with the software. Check to see if they’ve won any awards, too. This can be an indicator of how external groups perceive the board portal vendor.  For instance, Boardable has been recognized by reputable platforms such as G2, Capterra, and Software Advice over the years.

  4. Pricing. Your organization has a strict budget with which you need to work. Does the board portal come at an affordable price? Can you choose a package with the features you need? Take Boardable for instance. Select a package and gain access to the features you need, starting at $79 per month. Scale up to other plans to gain access to even more useful features.

Go into your board portal demos with these key questions in mind. In the end, you’ll have what you need to present to the rest of the board to make a final decision.

Powerful Board Software From Boardable

Boardable offers all of these great features we’ve talked about! Developed by a team of board experts, we know the types of tools your team needs to make time-sensitive decisions at a moment’s notice. Created for modern leaders, Boardable empowers all types of mission-driven organizations to accelerate their work and save time both in and outside of the boardroom.

Whether you’re in meetings or between them, your board will have centralized access to the tools it needs to power your mission. Participate in polls, collaborate on documents, divide assignments, meet virtually, and much more. Gain access to dozens of helpful features that will make your board’s work enjoyable. Whether they’re using their laptop or mobile device, board members can serve your organization wherever they are, either using the user-friendly web interface or the convenient mobile app.

Plus, we’re constantly evolving our software. We welcome any suggestions that will make our software better and your job as a board leader simpler.

If you aren’t quite sure whether you’re ready to take the plunge, sign up for a free trial. You’ll gain free access to the board management platform for two weeks—no commitment required. Your board will see the tools in action and be able to decide whether Boardable is right for them!

Start Free Today

Wrapping Up The Discussion on Board Portals

As you now see, almost every aspect of board service can be streamlined with a board portal. These platforms are designed specifically to meet the needs of modern boards like yours. It’s up to you to find the right platform that offers all the tools you need at a price that falls within your budget.

While we might be a bit biased, Boardable is a great option for any sized board that’s looking to boost productivity during and between meetings. Enhance the board experience and focus more on leading, not just managing, with our powerful board management software.

In the meantime, don’t stop learning about effective board management practices. Check out these helpful resources from the Boardable team:

  • Accessible Board Software and Its Role in the Boardroom. Board service should be open to all individuals, regardless of their accessibility needs. Learn more about the accessibility features your board needs.

  • How to Boost Board Engagement and Create an Energized Team. Your software contributes to your members’ engagement, but what other factors should you prioritize? Learn more about board engagement and what steps you can take to reinvigorate your team.

  • The Board Administrator: A Q&A Guide for Nonprofits. Being a board administrator can be tough work. Learn how to master the role in no time with this beginner’s guide to the role.

Key Differences Between a Board Chair and Executive Director

When it comes to managing and running a nonprofit, there are two roles that sound interchangeable. However, they are actually quite different and unique. Most importantly, both of these roles are critical in their own way to the long-term success of a nonprofit organization. Here, we’ll take a look at the differences between the board chair and executive director. Additionally, let’s read some actionable steps for setting these roles up for success.

Differences Between the Board Chair and Executive Director

A board chair is the leader of a nonprofit’s board of directors. Because a nonprofit board makes high-level strategic decisions for the organization itself, the board chair is mainly focused on helping a nonprofit achieve its mission long-term. An executive director, on the other hand, is responsible for managing the operational side of a nonprofit organization. The executive director handles all of the day-to-day initiatives of an organization and works directly with employees, volunteers, and other teams to fulfill the charitable mission of a nonprofit. 

Understandably, some responsibilities do overlap, which is why clearly defining each role is key. And, most importantly, a board chair and executive director must be in complete alignment over mission, strategy, and direction for a nonprofit to ensure both are working towards the same goals. Let’s look at some of these differences and how to be successful.

Difference #1 – High-Level vs. On-the-Ground Decision Making

One of the biggest contrasts between what a board chair and a nonprofit executive director are responsible for is scale. The board chair is focused on high-level strategic planning, and the executive director is more hands-on. The board chair and the nonprofit board determine the overarching scope, goals, and strategic direction of a nonprofit. Then, the executive director works with the people on the ground – staff, volunteers, accountants, marketers, fundraisers, etc. – to turn these high-level goals into reality.

Difference #2 – Subject Matter Expert vs. Long-Term Resource

Another key difference is the length of tenure for board chairs and executive directors. Board chairs, and nonprofit board members in general, aren’t often part of a nonprofit organization for more than a few years. In fact, it is a best practice of nonprofit boards to bring in new people on a rotating basis, between two and four years, to ensure that strategic decisions stay timely. This is why most board chairs are subject matter experts in their own right. Executive directors, on the other hand, can be in this role for years and can become highly skilled at working with and helping to transition board chairs and other board members. Many times, executive directors become a key resource for nonprofit boards to help find and appoint new board chairs.  

Difference #3 – Financial Responsibility vs. Management Responsibility

A final key difference is the terms of responsibility for board chairs and executive directors. Legally, all board members, and especially a board chair as leader of a nonprofit board, adopt responsibility for the financial compliance of a nonprofit. This includes all inbound and outbound transactions including donations, large gifts, and employee payroll. The executive director manages many of these transactions and is typically responsible for finding and attracting new donations and gifts. However, he or she is not legally responsible in any way. 

Tips for Success

In order to ensure these two roles are on the same page, here are some actionable tips for success:

  • These two leaders should have regularly occurring touch points outside of board meetings to go over issues or questions.
  • Executive directors should be included in all nonprofit board meetings to act as a source of truth for the day-to-day operations of the nonprofit.
  • Board chairs should conduct an annual performance evaluation of the executive director and other key staff members along with the rest of the board.

These crucial roles are too important to lump together. By recognizing how they differ, your board can support them successfully. We hope the tips in this blog post will help your board and staff thrive!