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What Every Nonprofit Should Know About Having a Board

A board of directors can make a significant difference in the success of your nonprofit organization.

A board comprised of knowledgeable, diverse and well-connected individuals can collectively provide your nonprofit with numerous benefits.  Not only can they offer wise guidance for your organization’s operational and financial decisions, but they can also create connections that have a great depth of impact.

In this article, we’ll address what a board does, the benefits of a good-quality board, and the qualifications to look for in future board members.

What a Board Does for Nonprofit Organizations

“A board of directors, also known as a nonprofit board, is the governing body of a nonprofit. The members of a nonprofit board focus on the high-level strategy, oversight, and accountability of the organization. This contrasts with employees or managers who oversee the day-to-day operations of the nonprofit.” This quote from Kindful.com, captures the purpose of a board succinctly and differentiates the role of the board versus the role of the employees.

The board plays a critical role that typically involves overseeing each of these areas: A group of diverse people gathered around a table having a meeting.

  • Mission
  • Strategy
  • Goals
  • Legal compliance
  • Ethical standards
  • Financial stability
  • Sustainability

These areas of oversight are huge and naturally have a significant impact on the direction of the nonprofit organization.  Along with having a lot of influence on the organization itself, individual board members can bring about very favorable activity.

The Benefits Board Members Create for Nonprofit Organizations

The networks, experiences and voices of each board member contribute to several different areas.  Not every member will excel in every area, but collectively, they can be a powerful resource.

  • Open up new opportunities through connections
  • Help procure resources and materials
  • Ask questions that may be uncomfortable but need to be addressed
  • Coordinate the hire of top leaders, when necessary
  • Act as ambassadors in the community
  • Support fundraising efforts
  • Provide accountability to ensure compliance with legal and ethical standards

This list is a clear indicator of why every nonprofit should have a board.   However, not just anyone should be a member of your board.  The process of choosing board members should be taken very seriously.

Questions to Consider When Looking for a Board Member

Diversity is key to a good board.  You want a board made up of people with varying areas of expertise, strengths and backgrounds. Each person should bring something to the table that makes the board, and therefore your organization, stronger.

Consider these questions when you are seeking a board member:

  1. Does this individual align with your mission and sincerely want your nonprofit to succeed?
  2. Does this individual have a record of making good decisions?
  3. Does this individual respect the core values of the organization?
  4. Is this individual kind, caring and respectful?
  5. Is this individual well-connected and able to influence major donors?
  6. Is this individual competent in an area where the board currently has a knowledge gap?
  7. Is this individual engaging and comfortable with interacting with staff, volunteers, donors and community members?
  8. Does this individual bring a diverse perspective that would benefit your decision-making?

Filling Board Member Positions for a Nonprofit Organization

As an executive search firm, we help organizations find board members.  One huge benefit to using an outside firm to find a board member is access to diverse networks.  As noted above, a good board will have a variety of backgrounds and experiences.  When you need to tap into talent pools that are different from your own, a search firm is a very valuable resource.

Additionally, board members can have varying degrees of responsibility.  When you are seeking a member to oversee a specific function of the organization, you may need the recruiting skills of an executive search team.  One of our recent board member searches was to fill an Audit Chair position.  These types of positions may prove to be too specialized without outside help.

In conclusion, few things are more important to the health and sustainability of a nonprofit than its board of directors. Develop a board of diverse, talented people and the benefits will be unmistakable.  The Centennial team would be honored to introduce you to future board members who bring the right passion and experience needed to round out your board.