Sunday, April 27, 2008

Ten Basic Responsibilities of Nonprofit Boards

Ten Basic Responsibilities of Nonprofit BoardsWhile researching the topic of board responsibilities for fundraising and financial management, I came across this page at the New Nonprofit Nexus, which includes a reprint from Ten Basic Responsibilities of Nonprofit Boards by
Richard T. Ingram.

I encourage you to review the full list here:

The book, a publication of BoardSource, states that the following are the Ten Basic Responsibilities of Nonprofit Boards (each is detailed further here):

  1. Determine the organization’s mission and purpose.
  2. Select the chief executive.
  3. Provide proper financial oversight.
  4. Ensure adequate resources.
  5. Ensure legal and ethical integrity and maintain accountability.
  6. Ensure effective organizational planning.
  7. Recruit and orient new board members and assess board performance.
  8. Enhance the organization’s public standing.
  9. Determine, monitor, and strengthen the organization’s programs and
  10. Support the chief executive and assess his or her performance.
It seems to me that all boards get really excited about the first one, and most enjoy the second step as well. Then, regardless of size of board, they begin to stumble until they get to the eighth, at which point they give themselves the excuse of having a big special event that they believe achieves this goal as well as many of the others (particularly the fourth, which is rarely the case).

They then get excited again when it comes to the ninth and tenth points.

Why is it that the others are such a struggle? After all...
  • Providing proper financial oversight is the core function of the board.
  • Ensuring adequate resources is the most vital function of the board, in terms of sustaining the ongoing mission.
  • Ensuring legal and ethical integrity and maintaining accountability goes hand-in-hand with providing proper financial oversight, and is something that ONLY the board can do.
  • The board is likely far more qualified to ensure effective organizational planning than the staff (like it or not, non-profiteers generally lack the level of business sophistication and strategic thinking necessary for this step to be successful). Besides, the organizational plan should reflect the community's interests (which the board represents) rather than the internal motivations of the organizations (which the staff live and breathe).
  • There is no way that staff can compete with board members when it comes to recruiting and orienting new board members and assessing board performance. This area can be an incredible chore, which is why it is generally neglected; but there is no better way to improve the performance of the organization.

I would welcome your thoughts, particularly if you are a member of a non-profit Board.
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