The Role of the Board in Nonprofit Success
"Please tell me what to do with my board!" a beleaguered executive director once said to me. She was about to pull her hair out in frustration.
And then a well-meaning board member asked me, "What am I really supposed to do?"
There's so much confusion about the appropriate job of a nonprofit board member. Many executive directors struggle with managing and motivating their board members in one way or another.
You'd probably agree with me that nonprofit boards can be a huge pain point for many people. This can include the board members themselves, who are immersed in a sea of confusion about what to do and how to do it.
Many board members themselves would like a better experience. They want their time to be better used because they want to make a bigger contribution to their favorite causes.
But is everyone clear on the jobs nonprofit boards are supposed to do?
There are very few formal, legal jobs required of nonprofit boards: "Duty of care, duty of loyalty and duty of obedience." All the other tasks that boards take on will vary widely based on the organization's age and staff skills.
So let's clarify the real jobs of nonprofit boards—and board members themselves. Whether the nonprofit is large or small, it can often share many of the same challenges with its board governance.
23 Habits of High-Performing Nonprofit Boards
This refresher course outlines how high-performing boards really operate. What are the jobs they take on? What are their attitudes and habits?
1. Clear expectations. The best boards are completely clear about expectations for board members. Without clear expectations, boards are setting themselves up for problems either now or later.
- Board expectations include general issues such as "support the mission."
- They also list specific actions required such as "purchase a table at the annual gala" or "attend ¾ of all board meetings."
2. Enforced expectations. Many boards have expectations but don't enforce them. You have to keep the expectations alive so they become recognized and accepted. Otherwise, they will be ignored!