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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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:
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
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
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.
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.
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.
2) Board members have legal and fiduciary responsibilities
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:
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.
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.
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.
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:
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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:
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:
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
The Indiana University Alumni Association started back in 1854 after a fire threatened the existence of Indiana University. Alumni came together to help the university rebuild and many years later continue to lead efforts to grow the university and extend its reach.
When you’ve been with an organization as long as Rebecca Keith has, you definitely have the chance to learn a few things along the way. After joining the IU Alumni Association 22 years ago in a support role to the CEO, Rebecca spent the next two decades learning, growing, and engaging with board members, advisors, and the alumni of the school they serve. As the current Executive Director of Governance, Rebecca manages the Alumni Association Board, called the Board of Managers, as well as the larger advisory group (called the Executive Council) and the various past chairs of the organization.
The IU Alumni Association is a nonprofit organization dedicated to activating and supporting the global alumni network of Indiana University. With 8 Indiana University campuses throughout the state of Indiana and a high number of out-of-state and international students, the IU Alumni Association supports a diverse group of alumni throughout the world. As such, the board itself is designed to reflect the diversity of the IU alumni body.
There are currently 14 board members of the IU Alumni Association, including the CEO of the organization, all of whom are voting members. There are 36 elected Executive Council members and 28 living past chairs of the organization, with 48% of all board and council members living outside the state of Indiana. All in all, this is a large group of professionals with which Rebecca and her team must develop engaging, lasting relationships.
While the board meetings have all been virtual since 2020, the organization typically meets multiple times a year in Indiana. The Executive Council meets twice a year in Indianapolis and Bloomington, IN, and is joined by the Board of Managers. The board itself then meets three additional times throughout the year.
While Rebecca is responsible for managing a large board serving one of the largest alumni networks in the country, her decades of experience in her role meant things were operating pretty smoothly inside the Alumni Association. In addition, board members themselves didn’t seem to mind the emails – dubbed “Rebecca-grams” – so she had no reason to go looking for a platform to fix anything.
After the CEO of the Alumni Association attended a nonprofit leadership conference and saw a presentation from a board management solution, Rebecca started thinking about potentially implementing this kind of solution for her board simply for streamlined organization and efficiency.
Even with all of the board details and information stored safely in her head and on her desktop, Rebecca quickly learned that having a platform like Boardable was extremely helpful for herself, her team, and her board members.
The IU Alumni Association decided to work with Boardable because it was founded by an IU grad, based in Indiana, was the economical choice compared to competitors, and had all of the product capabilities the organization was looking for.
The three months I spent onboarding myself and the team on Boardable was a game changer. I’m in love.
– Rebecca Keith, Executive Director of Governance
With Rebecca and the IU Alumni Association board members now all on Boardable, things are running smoother than ever before. Having a place to put all the files and information that were previously stored in her head is a best practice for business continuity and scalability.
Prior to using Boardable, Rebecca was spending 10-15% of her time building out a board meeting agenda, gathering documentation, and making edits. Today, Rebecca doesn’t have to manually gather documents and build a complex board packet – it’s all automated in Boardable. She can link to this content in the agenda and attach specific documents to specific agenda items. If the physical formatting or branding is off, she can customize this in Boardable instead of making one-off changes and having to re-print.
For the board members themselves, the app makes it easier for them to participate in the board and in discussions in a way that makes the most sense for them. They can access meeting documents and content from their phone or from the Boardable site. While board members still receive Rebecca-gram reminders, the majority of the notes and communications are sent through Boardable.
One of the best parts of working with Boardable was the implementation of the platform to the board. The team provided hands-on support during the onboarding process, and Rebecca herself filmed short training videos for volunteers and other auxiliary users. Rebecca also has a great rapport with the Boardable team and sends feedback and feature requests over on a regular basis.
The team loves it. Board members appreciate the smoothness of how it works. I can now focus on relationship building and succession planning and leave the meeting minutia to Boardable.
– Rebecca Keith, Executive Director of Governance
Boardable Features Used In This Case Study
View all your files in one, secure place. No need to dig through email attachments.
A nonprofit board is only as strong as its next board member. With Dr. Johnson-William’s advice, your board will have a plan for a bright future. In this webinar, Adriane explains where board recruitment often falls apart and how you can find better candidates that not only fill your skill and knowledge requirements, but also reflect your community and the population you serve.
Term limits come around fast… Do you have a plan for where your next board members will come from? How will you identify, recruit, and onboard them? If you’re not sure, don’t worry! We cover all this and more in this free webinar.
Never wonder who your next board member will be again! Learn how to recruit strong, diverse board members in this recorded webinar.
A nonprofit board is only as strong as its next board member. With Dr. Johnson-William’s advice, your board will have a plan for a bright future. In this webinar, Adriane explains where board recruitment often falls apart and how you can find better candidates that not only fill your skill and knowledge requirements, but also reflect your community and the population you serve.
Want to share the slide deck with your team? Download the a pdf of the slide deck here.
Executive Directors / CEOs looking to help their board find quality recruits
Board Chairs who want to identify strong board members and improve succession planning
Nonprofit staff who support board operations
Prospective board members who are interested in joining a board
Anyone who works with a nonprofit’s board of directors
During the webinar, Adriane referenced her new suggested board recruitment cycle. Here is an informative free handout she made that illustrates how to recruit better board members for all your open seats.
Adriane has deep experience in collective impact, philanthropy, nonprofit leadership and governance, and higher education. She is committed to fighting structural inequality regardless of whom it impacts, but is distinctly focused on the people of Memphis, TN, where she lives and works.
EQi 2.0/EQ 360 certified
Team Emotional and Social Intelligence (TESI) certified
Curious how central document storage, simpler meeting planning, and more efficient communication can help you attract and retain stellar board members? Make the board experience better than ever with a board portal. No credit card or commitment, start free today!
Caroline: Welcome, everyone. My name is Caroline from Boardable. If you’ve never heard of Boardable before, we are the central location for everything your board needs. Whether it’s document storage, polls and voting online, if you need to do attendance, RSVPs, anything that your board needs to communicate to each other you can do in one central place, no more digging through all your email. So come find us at boardable.com and you can start a free trial of Boardable and see for yourself. Right, Adriane, you’re a Boardable user?
Adriane: I am a Boardable user. I just used it this morning. I absolutely think it’s great, it’s [inaudible 00:00:49].
Caroline: Thank you for joining us today. I’m so excited to introduce Adriane, she’s gonna talk to us about the basics of board building. We know this is always a tricky issue for nonprofits. And if you’re kind of sweating where you’re gonna find your next board member, you won’t be after this webinar, right?
Adriane: I sincerely hope so.
Caroline: Okay. Well, I’m gonna let you take it over from there and teach us all about board building.
Adriane: Okay, great. So I’ll tell you a little bit about myself, Adriane Johnson-Williams. I have been a board chair now three times over. A startup board, a turnaround board, and a board with some great stability. So I’ve had a bit of experience trying to recruit in different contexts. And I just onboarded new board members for two organizations in the middle of a pandemic. So now I feel like a real pro.
I am going to kind of talk you through what I see the challenges are of kind of nonprofit boards and recruitment right now, and then give you what I’ve come up with as my own sense of what a board recruitment cycle might be that’s different in several ways from the traditional approach. So just to make sure we’re all speaking the same language, I’m gonna go through a bit of those challenges. And please do, as Caroline said, ask questions as we go.
The first thing I’m gonna do even before getting into the challenge is really talk about the purpose of nonprofit boards. So typically, in most states, the purpose is pretty straightforward, it’s legal and financial accountability, right. So the language may differ across the country but that tends to be the only thing that states require. How that gets translated into practice is a matter of local and organizational culture. The way that I like to think about it is that it’s the role of the board to partner with the executive and hold them accountable.
Two, making sure that all the legal and financial work is done properly to prevent executive isolation, right, so that they have some backup. A really good board chair executive director relationship can be very healthy for an organization. And then to support the executive as a full board, because that’s how you get to organizational success. So I wanna start there to say that’s what the purpose is and that’s how you’d wanna think about who you want on your board.
So I think of the kind of nonprofit board challenges often starting with this issue of the board matrix. If you Google, “Do we need the board matrix?” You’ll see some people on both sides of it. No, you don’t need a matrix. Yes, you do need a matrix. Well, I come from a results-based place where the only way you’re gonna know you’re doing what you said you were gonna do is if you have a plan. And you can’t plan for your board if you don’t have a matrix. So I’m on the board matrix yes side. You need to know what knowledge and skills you need on your board, and who do you have, and who are you gonna recruit for.
You need to know what diversity looks like on your board, even a small board. There may be ways that you have desires to have your board reflect your community or your clientele, you’re gonna need to count. Even if there are only five people on the board you need to count to figure out who you have. And then resources, right, what are the resources? What are the networks that your board members or potential board members have that you can get access to? So you’re gonna need the board matrix, that’s my first. This doesn’t have to be a challenge just do it. The other big question… Caroline, you’re about to say something?
Caroline: Oh, I was just saying I’m shocked that there’s conflicting opinions or information in the nonprofit sector. [inaudible 00:05:10].
Adriane: Yeah, you know, sometimes, you know, just a little bit it happens. So the other question around how many board members you need is a question that I get all the time from clients and discuss quite a bit as a board chair. And my general sense is you need enough board members to make sure you’ve hit your state minimum, and to be committee chairs, right? What are the committees that you absolutely need because not all boards need a lot of committees?
I can tell you right now, I’m on a board that recently only had five people. Our state minimum is three. And we worked really effectively for this organization and turn around. We recently added several people, because there’s different work to be done now, so we’re gonna need more people. So I think you need to have a board size that’s consistent with your need. And your bylaws should allow you to be flexible. And you need an odd number because, you know, who really wants to be trying to duke it out over a vote that’s a close vote. So you need an odd number. But there’s another thing…
Caroline: Court situation right?
Adriane: Exactly. You gotta have an odd number. So in terms of board size, one of the things that I don’t think people think about is the number of non-voting committee members you can have, right? So one organization that I was board chair for we had a lot of challenges with recruitment. And I’m gonna say that I am going to be giving examples of what I’ve done, what my clients have done. So I’m not recommending anything that I haven’t seen work. So we had a program committee and we were constantly trying to figure out who we were gonna recruit across all of our committees every single year, it was always a challenge. And what I decided to do was expand our volunteer recruitment to recruit people to serve on board committees. And we’re gonna talk more about that as we go. So I want you to think about how much work you have not just in terms of voting members, but also in terms of non-voting committee members because you’ll have a ready pool for recruitment.
So here’s the cycle. This is the cycle that we’re generally told we should follow, right. You identify and you might have somebody you identify in, you know, 2015, and they’re not ready to 2019. I’m currently one year out from… I tell people they need to be on a two-year waitlist for me to even consider being on a board. So sometimes it’s gonna take some time to get people on your board. And so the identification process is always happening. The cultivation process typically requires a lot of board time, different people going to meet with people, convince their friends, right the cultivation process. And then you go through the other components, right. So this is typically one but the identification one I think is the one where a lot of people get stuck because they don’t have a pool.
Another challenge is closed social networks. So I picked this photo because it’s a ratty old membership roll book. And what happens if you have closed social networks is that the pool gets real stale because you’re always recruiting the same group of people in your…just like you trade-off. Okay, would you come be on this board with me, please? Yeah, then I’ll go be on this board with you, okay. But you said you were gonna be…could you be on? And I know in Memphis, we have a 60 plus percent Black population in Memphis, there are just a handful of Black people I see on boards. So it’s like, why…I know tons more people who could be on these boards, why are you always calling these five people? Because people have closed social networks. So we’re gonna talk a bit about how to overcome that.
Caroline: That’s so interesting because, you know, I’ve been saying for a couple of years I wanna be on a board and can’t, like, find a board to be on. And yet, like you said, you’ll have the same 10 people on lots of different boards.
Adriane: Because nobody is inviting you. Like if you don’t know the people on the board, then you won’t know who to contact, right. Nobody will be contacting you. I see a question here that I’m going to go ahead and answer about a board matrix that I recommend. I don’t have a specific format that I recommend. I typically say to people that all you need really is a basic spreadsheet and the diversity categories, and the characteristics that are important to you. And you keep track of that. So it’s really as simple as a spreadsheet. I think we can overcomplicate things sometimes. But my spreadsheets if it’s local, it’s just the kind of race ethnicity characteristics, gender identity characteristics, and other things that are critical to the organization.
Caroline: So that’s gonna depend on your particular work.
Adriane: Exactly. So if you need people with medical experience that needs to be somebody on your…you need to see, I need somebody who has clinical experience. And yes, a board can be way too big. So you want your board, your voting board, to be a size that is consistent with the work that you have to do.
Adriane: Caroline, somebody said they’re looking for board members. So if you want to be on a board I think you’ve got an offer from Carolyn Rubin [inaudible 00:11:19].
Caroline: Carolyn, meet Caroline. That’s so funny, matchmaking service.
Adriane: So the next section is really about what does this new board recruitment cycle look like? And how do you maximize diversity of all types according to the needs of your organization? So this board recruitment cycle has at least one more step and it has some greater definition. So because I come from a results-based background, and it continues to improvement background, I feel like if you don’t have planning explicitly a part of your board recruitment cycle, then, you know, there’s a problem. So you really have to plan. And you have to plan at the end of the fiscal year before you get into the next one, right? You have to have your plan together for what your recruitment cycle is gonna look like the next year. And planning is where that board matrix comes in, right? Who do we have? Who do we need? Who’s planning to leave right after, you know, in that last quarter? Are you gonna be around? You really need to come up with a plan. And then your plan will determine kind of all the steps that come after. So we’re gonna go into that next.
So let’s talk about planning. So going back, what are your targets? What are your goals, right? So if you know that your board is racially disproportionately, like, balanced to your community or your client base, you’re probably gonna set some targets. I would say it’s important to set targets out for a couple of years because if people aren’t gonna roll-off, you can’t just kick people off of your board if you wanna change the mix, right? You have to do it in a way that’s consistent with your bylaws and your rotation schedule. But once you set the targets, it’ll let you know how to kind of really go out and find the people you need.
You also want…for the person who’s talking about the board matrix, this again goes to what knowledge and skills do you need? I’m on a board where we really do need people with knowledge of the kind of clinical work in the psychology field. We need people with research background, we need people who can help us think about the various liability associated with providing mental health services in a nonprofit space, right. So it’s great to have those people on your board, obviously, because you don’t have to pay for the guidance you get [inaudible 00:14:05] to the point of getting volunteers with lots of knowledge and experience.
What does diversity mean for your organization? So I would say in the environments where people are in the nonprofit sector trying to have a board that reflects their client base, then you’re going to need to really look at race-ethnicity. We have an organization and…several organizations, like Planned Parenthood, like your LGBTQ organizations, like your other reproductive health organizations, where gender identity and sexual orientation might need to be represented on your board because that’s your client base.
One of the areas that I think is challenging for people is to determine kind of how to integrate people who are not of the same social class as people tend to be on boards, right. We have to admit that there’s a socio-economic barrier sometimes. And even having clients and constituents who can be on boards, even if they are not voting members because they might have some self-dealing if their clients are constituents. So you wanna think about what kind of diversity means for your organization.
And then what resources. Do people have money? Board members are responsible for the money of the organization or for giving. So you wanna have some people who have money. But you don’t wanna make that exclusively what people bring, right? Do they bring access to other resources and whatnot, okay? So the planning part really takes time. I see a question here that I definitely wanna go ahead and answer. And it was around kind of dealing with the financial give-get commitment. We’re gonna get to the evaluation components so if you’re curious about that, that’s where that section is gonna be.
Caroline: I think one interesting point here that one of our nonprofit contributors at Boardable always brings up about the knowledge and skills is, you know, some people, maybe they’re an accountant for their day job, but they don’t wanna do that for their board. So I guess you have to be clear that that’s a skill they actually want to contribute [inaudible 00:16:21] too, you know.
Adriane: Yep, that’s a real important part of the interview process. Because you don’t wanna invite somebody onto the board and tell them that we need you to look at our finances. That’s not why I’m here. I don’t wanna do this in my own time. So that’s why you need to have an interview process for sure.
The next part, I’ve seen a lot of questions pop up around this is around this idea of where do you find the people? Well, one of the things that I think has become for me…it was really obvious when it finally landed, but I realized it’s not as obvious for everyone. We recruit for volunteers all the time to do very specific things. We have often, depending on the size of the organization, volunteer managers, some of us have volunteer portals. Board members are volunteers, right? We’re asking people to do a specific piece of work for a specific piece of time for no money. That is essentially volunteering, right? And it’s possible to recruit them the same way you would recruit for other jobs and for volunteers.
And so while you could have just a regular post out there, are you interested in joining on our board on your website, or on your social media, for your annual recruitment, you wanna customize what you’re looking for. If you came up with a plan that said you need people with these three skills, and you’re looking for more people who are Spanish English bilingual. Because of the kind of just basically the intellectual capacity they have to understand what it means to be bilingual in the world, right. Then you need to recruit for that. You need a job description.
So if you don’t have job descriptions for your board members right now, everybody should have a job…there should be a board description. “This is what the job is for being on the board. And here’s the individual responsibilities of board members,” right. So I would say, have really good job descriptions, post them. Post them on your website, “We’re recruiting for the board for this this year,” right? People will be active beginning at this time. To your email list, your volunteers, your donors, “Hey, it’s time to start recruiting for the board we’re building our pool, please let us know if you wanna consider here, apply here,” right.
There are some management support organizations for nonprofits and communities that have job boards and there are various volunteer recruitment services out there that you can sign up for and recruit. One other idea that a friend of mine gave me recently…and I haven’t tried it yet, but I’ve written about it and I’m gonna run with it. And those are those employee resource groups at the major companies in your community. Where you connect with them and companies that have their community engagement offices and whatnot, they communicate with their employees throughout the entire company, here are some opportunities. So build a pool of people who you can recruit for voting and non-voting needs. So whatever descriptions you put out need to be very clear about what the ask is.
Caroline: So this is really exciting, too, because all of these things we can do during COVID?
Adriane: Yeah, [inaudible 00:19:42].
Caroline: [inaudible 00:19:41] work all day you don’t have time to meet new board members or, you know, to court them or whatever. But all of this we can do online.
Adriane: Yes. And I think just like you, Caroline, there are a lot of people out there if these things came across their social media or their email from organizations they support, you know, if you’re donating to an organization, you’ve already checked the first box of being a good board member, right? So boom, they give, let’s see if they wanna be on the board, right. But there are other ways to do this.
Someone asked about should board members submit their volunteer hours for tracking? You know, this is a question I’ve been asking about for volunteer managers among colleagues of mine. Because there’s also the issue of understanding what the value of your volunteer base is. And some of your board members, depending on what their work is and what their life is, the value of their hour in their marketplace is really significant. And to be able to acknowledge what they’ve essentially donated to the organization is interesting. I don’t know what the tax implications are of actually really acknowledging it that way but to just track it, it does make sense. But board members would have to do that work, right. So there is that.
The other thing is once you have a pool of people, you have all these applications that will come pouring in because people love your organization, they’ve just been waiting for the opportunity to be asked to volunteer, you have to get a sense from each person who rises to the top, right. So you’re reviewing these like you would a job application, right? And you’re gonna have your pool but then you’re gonna have a few people who rise to the top. You want to understand their interest because everybody who says, “Yeah, I think I wanna be on a board” may not understand what that means. So I know there are different tools…our management support organization in Memphis has it. I have one just a free webinar that I offer. There are all sorts of options out there, what does it mean to be on a board, right? So you wanna make sure they understand that.
And if it turns out they don’t wanna be on the board as a voting member, what other things might they want to do, right? Do they want to just be on your program committee? Are they interested in just helping you raise money? They could be on your fund development committee? Or really, are they just interested in having a more robust volunteer opportunity in your organization, right? And are they interested in giving money? Because if you find somebody who’s not interested in giving money…and I don’t mean a lot of money. But even people who… Memphis as I say, again, is one of the poorest cities in the country, but one of the most generous, people are always giving, right. So if they don’t wanna give even like $5 a year, then they may not be good for your board.
The other thing you wanna do in an interview is be really clear about every role that they are considering, what the responsibilities are, what the expectations are, and what the accountability procedures are. So this goes to how to get people to live up to their expectations. And so, those kinds of things should already be written. So if you don’t have those, you wanna take time as a board or have your governance committee if you have one, take the time to be very clear about what those job descriptions are, what the expectations are, what the accountability procedures are.
And then you wanna get references. So this goes to that closed social network situation, right? If you don’t have a relationship with somebody, you don’t have somebody on your board who’s saying, “I vouch for this person,” then you’re still gonna need to know whether they’re likely to be a good fit and whether they actually will do the things they say they’re going to do. So just like a job interview, you really do need to get references and have conversations with people who have served with them on boards before. Or if they’re new to board governance, who can give them character references. You just need to do your due diligence when it comes to boards cultivating all the possibilities.
I need to note this one that we need to give a link to someone about how to…people can be like what does it mean to be a board member? So Caroline, if you’ll make no for that we’ll follow-up. But also, there are some other questions around job descriptions and things like that. I know that BoardSource is a really good resource for getting these kinds of things, basic job descriptions boardsource.org. So I recommend that people go there. I have my clients go there all the time because there’s not going to be reinventing those. So they have sample job descriptions, and they have some basics on what does it mean to be on a board as well in written form.
Caroline: I believe they have matrices as well.
Adriane: They have that too. It’s really a treasure trove. I really spend a lot of time with BoardSource materials,
Caroline: I’m gonna do a quick search over there and see if I can drop something in the chat for us.
Adriane: So after you’ve gotten everybody onboard, you’ve got all the people you need to vote, you’ve got your committees are now bigger than ever because everybody wants to help on committees but they may not wanna be on boards, then I think we need to think about orientation and onboarding in a very different way. You definitely want your standard orientation where you cover all of these things. Because that is typically where people sign off to say, “Okay, I understand all my responsibilities, here’s my signature, you can hold me to it. I have signed my, you know, conflict of interest document. I’ve, you know, learned a little bit about your finances and how you’re gonna review finances, right.” So you need to do that. And you don’t wanna skip that ever because it can cause problems around holding people accountable.
But I think it’s also important to onboard people over time. That if you maybe do some kind of old new partnering, that way the board chair isn’t the person that everyone calls for help, they can develop relationships with other people on the board, right. So that’s part of building your community, but also having that older…the member who’s been there for a while check-in.
The other thing is that board development is part of your orientation and onboarding process. So in that first year of service, people need to know that there’s a kind of culture around learning and development, and being skilled. The most important thing I would say, aside from culture, which we’ll get to, is really around understanding the money part of it because you’re fiduciaries. Board members are fiduciaries. So people need to know how to read the financial statements, because when the minutes come out, and it says that the financial statements were accepted, everybody is legally accountable for having read the financial statements. So that is something people need to know how to do. People need to understand what it means to participate in fundraising. Not everybody is gonna pick up the phone and call someone. But there are other roles that board members can play and that they should be playing.
And then if there are specialized pieces of knowledge for your organization, the board members are not necessarily gonna come with that knowledge. If you are a community-based organization that relies on community organizing, and you have board members who are really about making sure that power is distributed fairly in your community, but has never done community organizing, they’re not going to know how messy it can be. They’re not gonna understand when some things kind of flare-up that could make you kind of look bad in the media. So it’s important for them to understand what the nature of the work is, what to expect. So those kinds of board development opportunities are important to do not just at orientation, but at least throughout the…well, actually it’s throughout the entire year. But that new people are gonna need some of this, particularly in the first year.
I’ve seen two committee questions that I wanna answer that I missed. One was around having head of a committee that isn’t on the board. I would say I wouldn’t recommend having a committee head that isn’t on the board. But I think you could have some sort of subcommittee or ad hoc work, a special project where the head of the committee isn’t on the board. But the reality is that only a board member can move something from committee to the full board. So if you don’t have a person on the committee who is representing the actual voting board, then you’re probably not gonna get much out of that committee. Just in terms of your ability to really advocate at the level of the board for what is coming out of that committee.
The other thing someone asked is, how many committees or subcommittees do you need? And my answer is always what kind of work do you need to get done? So like I’m board chair of two boards right now and we don’t have any committees. The board where we just added new people, we’re about to start committees around fundraising, and research, and evaluation because it’s around mental health. And so, we’re gonna be inviting people from the community to serve on those committees. And only one board member will be required to be on the committee.
In terms of how many committees a single board member should be on. I really…and I get pushback. So this is another one of those areas, Caroline, where there’s a lot of disagreement in the field. As a board chair do not feel I need to be on any committees. Like, I don’t have time for that because I’m charing the whole board. And I have my own committee, right, I have the executive committee.
And then there’s the other committees: governance committee, finance committee, right. So your treasurer is probably gonna be your chair of your finance committee. So you’ve got your officer, right, being there. I think that officers who have their own committees don’t need to be on any other committees. And I think that if it’s possible to have people never serve on more than two committees that is the way to do it. But to ask that people at least serve on one. Board work…
Caroline: Go ahead,.
Adriane: Board work can be really heavy depending on the life stage of the organization, startups, new boards, or working boards, there’s a lot of work to be done. But the kind of older the board is if it’s a healthy board, you probably don’t need a lot of people doing a lot of work on committees. You could be on multiple committees because the work is less.
Caroline: Yeah, I guess that could be an indicator of needing more board members if everybody is having to wear too many hats
Adriane: Yeah, or needing more committee members.
Caroline: Yes, to take it off of the board [inaudible 00:31:51].
Adriane: Exactly. And that would be something just to say people have to check their bylaws too to determine if that’s something. So for the, you know, “Star Trek” people, you probably recognize this as the Borg cube. We do not wanna be the Borg, we do not want to force people to assimilate to our board culture, right? We want [crosstalk 00:32:15.252].
Caroline: [crosstalk 00:32:15.444].
Adriane: We do want them to acculturate though. So people often use those words interchangeably, but I wanna kind of offer up an important distinction. Assimilation is literally just sucking somebody in saying you have to be us, right? This is who we are, you have to be us. But what is the point of having diversity on your board if everybody is the same? So what you want is to be clear about your board culture is. And when I say culture, I mean things like, we always check in with each other at the beginning of board meetings, right. We don’t just start a board meeting, we go around and find out how everybody is doing, right? This is part of our culture.
We always do what we say we’re gonna do. People don’t show up to these board meetings not having done their work, because that’s not acceptable to us as a community. That is not our culture. We have all taken the time to understand how it is we’re supposed to show up in the community so nobody can ever come to one of us and get a different story. That’s who we are. So you want people to adopt those things. But then you want people to bring all the other things that you’ve recruited them for. Because if you’ve recruited them for specific knowledge, skills, expertise, dispositions, connections, you want for that to show up, you don’t wanna close that down.
So, you know, culture management, and thinking about how you’re acculturating people without trying to assimilate them is important. And it’s even more important when you’re talking about identity diversity because people from different cultures and communities show up in different ways. And you wanna be clear about the difference between people being culturally different, and people not acculturating, right. Those are two different things. It doesn’t matter where you come from, what your background is, but you can show up and know that we’re gonna check in with you every meeting find out how you doing. That’s not a culturally necessarily specific thing, it is culturally specific to our board.
Caroline: That is a really interesting distinction. And I think, too, it’s so important with the diversity piece if you’re trying to bring in people who, you know, might have a different background than the other board members and you force them to be just like the other people somehow that’s not gonna work.
Adriane: Yeah, what’s the point of diversity if everybody has to be the same? That’s just not, you know, just [inaudible 00:34:52]. And the last piece is evaluate. So I know from working with a lot of my clients that…and from kind of looking around the community here that this piece is a challenge. Because we think about accountability often as punishment, or judgment, or shaming. But we’re gonna go with Brené Brown and say, shame really has no place in a healthy relationship.
Caroline: Yes, I love it.
Adriane: So shared accountability is that we have come to an agreement of what is expected of all of us and we’re all agreeing that we’re gonna do it. And if we don’t do it, we’re agreeing to be accountable for that. To say, “I didn’t do it, here’s why.” Or “I can’t do it, maybe I’m not suited for this role, right.” So shared accountability is really about agreeing as a group to take responsibility. But as an organization, as a board, you have to structure accountability. And by that, you need to have a committee. Or you need to have the tasks that are associated with governance built into another committee. So the governance committee work, I really encourage people to go out and poke around and understand why the governance committee is so important.
But if you don’t have a governance committee, you don’t have anyone regularly doing assessments of the board, right? Some people recommend these big assessments only every two or three years. I tell my clients to do a…like you have your list of obligations, your expectations of individual board members, your practices that you’re supposed to be engaging in as a board. It doesn’t take anything in the fourth quarter of the year to send out a survey to hear from people how they think things are going so that you can think about your board development agenda for the next year, right? It’s possible to do that.
The other thing that a governance committee is responsible for is monitoring. So you don’t wanna wait till the end of the year…this is also part of my continuous improvement background. You don’t wanna wait to the end of the year to find out that people haven’t given, or people haven’t been attending, or people aren’t participating, or people aren’t doing what they’re supposed to do. You have to do that on a regular basis. And somebody’s job has to be to do that and that’s the work of the governance committee to track attendance. To let people know, hey, we’re only supposed to meet these two meetings, you’ve missed two meetings, do you wanna talk about what’s happening, you know, so that we can determine kind of what your ongoing interest is?
Giving, we have a minimum amount you’re supposed to give. It looks like you’re not on track to make that, what is your plan? Or we’re getting into the fourth quarter and you haven’t made a gift yet, what is your plan, right? Participation, you’re coming to meetings, but it seems like you’re not prepared. It feels like this is the way you’re showing up in the meeting, is there anything we can do to help you be more successful, right? So the governance committee is like the HR group of the board, basically. They’re the ones to say…
Caroline: [inaudible 00:38:15].
Adriane: …this is how governance works, and here are all the things that you need to be doing and we’re here to support you in being successful. The executive assistant for one of the boards that I served on said, “I love the way you say we’re gonna give people opportunities to succeed,” right? So we’re giving you every opportunity to succeed that is the role of the governance committee. If you integrate the tasks into the executive committee, then it becomes the role of the officers to take on the responsibility for monitoring and for reviewing the evaluations.
Caroline: And this is too where those job descriptions are gonna come in handy because then they’re so like, “Well, I didn’t realize I was supposed to x, y, z [inaudible 00:39:01] fill it out before [inaudible 00:39:03].
Adriane: Yeah, because if you have the general board roles and responsibilities, and the individual job description of board members, and even if you have committees, like you can have…anytime you have somebody doing a job, you can have a description of what that is and what the expectations are.
The other thing I wanna say that I realized I forgot to say around those committees is that if you’re recruiting people to committees who aren’t voting board members, and you’ve got your eye on some people, either governance committee can be tasked with looking at their data, like are they giving, are they showing up for committee meetings, and putting them at the top of the list for recruitment for the next board cycle, right, because it’s almost like a trial run. If you have somebody on a committee for a year they give, they show up to all the meetings, they’re super enthusiastic, they’re great to be around, maybe that person can move on to the board at some point if they decide that they’ve given it a trial run and they like you as much as you like them.
Caroline: I love that.
Adriane: And the last thing I have and we can really then get into these questions is a quote that I cannot find the origins to. It’s just out there randomly on plaques everywhere on the interwebs. And it is “I don’t fear commitment. I fear wasting my time.” And one of the things that is really a benefit of having good structure to your board recruitment cycle, and your job descriptions, and your accountability systems, is people have a sense that you’re serious as a group, and you’re not gonna be wasting their time. Because you’ve taken the time to prepare, to recruit, to assess, to give people feedback, right? You have work for them to do, you’re holding them accountable for it. That kind of structure just like kids need structure, I feel like we don’t know enough but adults also need structure in community. It’s good to be able to say, “This is why I’m here, this is what I’m doing, and my time is valuable to you.” So that is what I have for you today. Let’s get into some questions maybe.
Caroline: Wonderful. Thank you so much. I know there are a ton of questions in here because it’s such a important and complicated topic for people. As you’re entering more questions in the chat area there, and we’ll get to the ones that were entered previously as well, I just wanted to mention a webinar we have coming up on November 10th, it’s on strategic planning in uncertain times. Gee, I don’t know why any of us would need that, right? You can join us to discuss a framework for long-term planning even when every month is a new, fresh hell in this year, 2020, right. So you can find the registration on boardable.com as well as we’ll send that in the replay, too. But let’s start getting to those questions. So I just wanna ask in general terms how have you seen this change through the COVID era? Is it harder to meet people? Is it easier? What are you seeing, like, [crosstalk 00:42:14.889].
Adriane: I’ve always thought people who are passionate about an issue or interested in a topic are still available to talk. For the recruitment that I did, we recruited and got five new members on one of our board…four new members on our board. It was literally a matter of picking up the phone…well sending them an email saying, “Hey, here are some materials, right, can I talk to you?” Making those phone calls. And the enthusiasm, “Oh, my gosh, I love your organization, I’ve been watching from a distance. I think this is an important topic what can I do to help, right?”
And it’s also easier to schedule conversations in COVID because most people who are…you know, they know what their timeline is, they know that they’re probably not gonna have to leave their house or they can do it in between depending on what kind of work they do. And they can just get on their phone or get on their webcam, right. So I found recruitment this year much easier than in years past. And to be honest, this year, I didn’t even really do the job postings in the same way because we had so much interest we didn’t really need to do pool building.
I am about to do the job postings for another organization soon because there are some other skills that we’re gonna need to add to that board. But recruitment has been really easy for us. But, you know, not every… Once you get the job descriptions out there, it may be harder to get people to buy because people don’t understand board services sometimes. And people have had a lot of bad experiences on boards. So you lose the edge of sitting in front of someone and watching them, and feeling their energy and saying “Feels like you might have some other issues about serving on boards, how can I help you with that?” So we have to find other ways to get past that barrier.
Caroline: Yeah, I didn’t think of that. But that makes a lot of sense that you do need to do some reading of people sometimes in these conversations. Let’s see. Angela asks, so she is recording…recruiting, excuse me, possible members but they have to be parents of students in her course or the school, pool is parents of students. So what can we do when we have like a limited type of board member we can [inaudible 00:44:58.817]?
Adriane: Wow, when the pool is restricted, I think this is one that you really have to be more enticing. So it’s important to…you’d have to really spend time getting to know some people in the pool, figuring out who are the people who are most engaged in general. And then taking the time to really market to them, right. Make sure you’re communicating with them well, let them know what’s happening on the board. Provide opportunities to learn about what does it mean to be on a board? I can’t say that enough that one of the things that has become most popular in my world right now is the kind of what does it mean to be on a board question because turns out people really don’t know.
So I think you have to develop almost your own marketing plan for that group. And engage in conversations, have little info sessions, you know. “Hey, I wanna…you know, who’s interested in talking about, like, this decision we’re about to make on the board. And we’d like to get some parents’ input on it,” right? So you wanna try to engage people in the work and also enticing them into becoming a part of it.
Caroline: Great. Okay, we have another question here about the give-get commitment. How do you recommend setting that? This particular board has an operating budget of about 10 million, so how do you feel about that?
Adriane: I feel like that’s one of those really organizationally cultural things. It depends on how healthy the board is financially if you want people…healthy the organization is. If your board has to be responsible for 10% of your fundraising, then you’re gonna wanna have a conversation with your board around what is the….well, let’s use this example. If your operating budget is $10 million and you need your board to raise a million dollars every year, then you’re gonna have a very different conversation with that group about what they need to give individually, and what they need to go get, right. And with the help of your development team.
If you have a smaller organization and you don’t have a lot of…a large budget, then that number might look different, right? So I feel like 10% is the most I’ve ever heard anybody say, of the board’s responsibility. Well-endowed organizations often really ask for a significant gift, right? So the boards I’m on it’s a significant gift we just adopted that language. And having individual conversations with people about what significant might mean for them. So that tends to be a very unsatisfactory answer for people but, that is…
Caroline: They want hard numbers, right?
Caroline: It’s great for this follow-up question of, you know, if we’re working towards people with diverse backgrounds, how does that give-get commitment work with lower-income impeccably, you know.
Adriane: And that’s why the significant gift language is appealing to me. I know that there are people we wanna get on the board. For instance, Girls Inc of Memphis was my first board chair role, I was very unsuccessful at getting a governance committee started when I was there. And I was unsuccessful in getting parents and girls on the board. But we were doing a lot of work it wasn’t that there was resistance we just couldn’t get to it. I saw the announcement recently that they now have added girls to the board and parent, right. So I’m excited that they finally got there.
But I am certain that the expectation of what girls give as a board member is different from the expectation of what the board members give. And possibly what parents give given the income status of most of our families. And so we want to ask everyone for a gift no matter what they have, because truthfully, it is insulting to have people and assume that they can’t give. But you wanna ask everyone to give at a level that is something that they can manage and that’s appropriate for them.
Caroline: Love that. Yes, let’s see. Bobby here comments, “Is there a way we can share our nonprofit info to all like a roster,” I guess is what that is. I wish. We had talked about offering some sort of portal like that in Boardable but we haven’t gotten that far. I know that’s a big need for like a database of board openings, and board opportunities, and potential board members. Everyone keep an eye out for that and if somebody finds something share it with the [crosstalk 00:49:58.793]
Adriane: Locally they have them. I know I’ve never used them, but VolunteerMatch I think is a national platform with local and regional options to post for board positions and other types of volunteer jobs. In New York State, they have Governance Matters that does their kind of board listings and board recruitment. They actually do board recruitment for you and board matching. So every city-state region has its own thing, but I’m pretty sure most places have a resource. If you go to the I wanna say The Alliance for Nonprofit Management, that may be the wrong organization, but there’s a national organization where they’ll tell you who your management support organization is in your community and how to become a part of that group.
Caroline: Okay, here’s a really great question. What is the role of the executive director with the board? Someone asked if they should be on the board? I know, there’s differing opinions on that. So what role does this person play in the recruitment of the board members?
Adriane: So I am in the board members…the executive director should not be voting members of the board camp, that’s my general position. Because it’s hard to be the body that holds someone accountable when they have equal standing with you in that way. But I do think that executive director should be in the boardroom during board meetings, right, that is their…it is appropriate for them to be there. And unless there’s an executive session, there should not be a meeting without the executive director. In some organizations, they’re listed as ex officio, which means that they are on the board, but they don’t have a vote. So that’s my position on that.
When it comes to recruiting board members, it depends on the life cycle of the organization. Startups typically, the boards are chosen by the executive director, because this is their idea they’ve come up with, and they’re gonna go out and get people to be on their board, right. Over time, though, I think the role of the executive director is to make recommendations if there are people out there that they want on the board. But ultimately, it’s the board’s job to interview to manage the recruitment.
And I feel like there should be a conversation between the executive director and potential board members in concert with the board chair. So that there should be these conversations where they all talk together or where at least that conversation is there, because there also has to be a sense from the executive director that this potential board member respects them` and will support the work of the organization, right? So I think that’s a worthy reason to have them participate in that way.
I do not think that executive directors should be recruiting board members, that is the role of the board. They can recommend, they can say, “I’ve met this person, I think you should consider them.” But they should not be out, in my opinion, talking to someone saying “You should be on our board.” Which, oddly enough is how I got on my first board. But I got there and ultimately became board chair, it was because the board wasn’t doing that work, right. So the board…you know, you have to do your work as a board so that your executive director isn’t taking over and kind of crossing those boundaries.
Caroline: Let’s see, we have a lot of questions about brand new nonprofits or startups finding board members with that, seems like it would be a similar procedure you just have a precedent.
Adriane: Right. It would be a similar procedure. I think it’s also part of announcing the organization, introducing the organization to the community to the world gives you an opportunity to recruit. Mind you for a startup, you really do need people who are deeply committed to the work and who believe in the executive, right. So that would be the kind of board where I would say whatever your state minimum is, that’s how small your board should be, to begin with, for a startup. To really build out all the pieces, get everything in place, and then get into recruitment.
Caroline: One more about the executive director. Where did that one go? Oh, what’s your opinion on having retired executives on the board, I guess, and is there a percent of the makeup of the total? I don’t know how many retired executives you’d have.
Adriane: I am not sure how to answer that question, so I’m gonna kind of jump in and see. The people you recruit for your board have to be people who can contribute to the work that needs to be done at the time. So, when you think about your board matrix, and you think about what is the set of knowledge, skills, dispositions, all those things you need on your board, if it turns out there are a lot of retired executives who apply, who are interested, who you’ve talked to, then maybe that’s your pool. But I can’t imagine that subgroup by itself taking up a lot of space on a board unless it’s because it comes as a result of a closed social network where they all know each other and recruit each other.
Caroline: Okay. Let’s see, we’re running out of time, I’ll try to get a few more of these in here. What’s your feelings on like a young professionals board as a sort of recruiting ground?
Adriane: I have a couple of…I don’t know. I’m not entirely sure how I feel about it, truth be told. I feel like if you wanna make young professionals actively involved in learning about governance, it’s probably, in my opinion, better to put them actually on a committee and teach them about the work of the organization, and then roll them onto your board.
But I think anytime you separate out a population into an advisory committee or a subgroup then, one, you’re making more work for your executive director and your board to try to manage another group. But you’re also suggesting that this particular subgroup isn’t maybe ready, or qualified, or appropriate for the board, which would make it harder to really recruit from there. Because you’d have to invest in them, you’d have to do all the training. So I would say, put them on committees, create spots and recruit young professionals to be on your committees, and then prepare them for board service. Grow your own, so to speak.
Caroline: Okay, let’s see. Can we get in one more question? Yes, we will be sending a replay, and a slide deck, and a handout that has a lot of this process outlined on it. Let’s see, we can also send links for contacting you in case people have more questions coming up. Would you like to repeat your website or your contact information before we [inaudible 00:57:44]?
Caroline: firstname.lastname@example.org, I love that. And also boardable.com, you can find a lot of these like ebooks and things I’ve been putting in the chat area. There’s some really good information there about outlining the board roles, what are… Let’s see, we have another one. I think you would enjoy this the ED versus board chair, which a lot of people…there’s a lot of questions on that one too. Well, I would like to thank you once again for joining us. This has been so informational.
Adriane: Thank you.
Caroline: I’m sure everybody in the chat area agrees there because of all these wonderful questions coming in. Are you available for following up if people have…?
Adriane: Yes, I am, so feel free to email me. Email the talk to us and it’ll get funneled because I have associates who also specialize in some of these topics. But email there and we will certainly get back to you.
Caroline: All right. Thank you, everybody. Have a great rest of your week and we hope to see you next month for strategic planning. Bye, Adriane. Thanks.