Responsibilities of the Nonprofit Board

responsibilities of the nonprofit board

I recently was asked to participate on the board governance work group of a relatively new organization of which I am a board member.  Having participated on the board of Maryland Nonprofits (back then, it was the Maryland Association of Nonprofits or MANO), served as its board chair, chaired its Standards for Excellence Committee as the, by now, well known Maryland Standards were developed, and led its National Standards for Excellence Advisory Board, I was delighted to have the opportunity to return to the issues of board performance from a different perspective.

The board I’m on has engaged BoardSource, a national expert on board governance, to lead our planning effort. Their simple one-page list of responsibilities of the nonprofit board is worth reviewing for those who serve on a board, work for a nonprofit, or support a nonprofit. These may not apply exactly to every nonprofit, but it’s a very good general list: 

  1. Determine mission and purposes. It is the board’s responsibility to create and review a statement of mission and purpose that articulates the organization’s goals, means, and primary constituents served.
  1. Select the chief executive. Boards must reach consensus on the chief executive’s responsibilities and undertake a careful search to find the most qualified individual for the position.
  1. Support and evaluate the chief executive. The board should ensure that the chief executive has the moral and professional support he or she needs to further the goals of the organization.
  1. Ensure effective planning. Boards must actively participate in an overall planning process and assist in implementing and monitoring the plan’s goals.
  1. Monitor and strengthen programs and services. The board’s responsibility is to determine which programs are consistent with the organization’s mission and monitor their effectiveness.
  1. Ensure adequate financial resources. One of the board’s foremost responsibilities is to provide adequate resources for the organization to fulfill its mission.
  1. Protect assets and provide financial oversight. The board must assist in developing the annual budget and ensuring that proper financial controls are in place.
  1. Build a competent board. All boards have a responsibility to articulate prerequisites for candidates, orient new members, and periodically and comprehensively evaluate its own performance.
  1. Ensure legal and ethical integrity. The board is ultimately responsible for adherence to legal standards and ethical norms.
  1. Enhance the organization’s public standing. The board should clearly articulate the organization’s mission, accomplishments, and goals to the public and garner support from the community.
Maryland Family Network board at Antietam.

Maryland Family Network board of directors at Antietam.

How lucky Maryland Family Network is to have a strong board that works tirelessly to fulfill all ten of these responsibilities!

This past Friday we had an opportunity to spend some “down time” with each other. Board and staff took a docent-led tour of Antietam National Battlefield, following our board meeting at the Family Support Center in Frederick, Frederick Family Partnership.  Here are a few of us, listening to Joe, our guide.