For a nonprofit organization, the board of directors has the ultimate responsibility to lead the organization to fulfill its mission. So, it is vital that the board of directors is positioned to fulfill their role to lead the nonprofit organization.
As nonprofit professionals, we play an integral role in the development of the board of directors. Because of this, it is important for nonprofit professionals to understand the duties of the board of directors and strategies to develop a strong board of directors.
There are three legal duties for board members in nonprofit organizations:
Duty of Care: Directors and officers must perform their responsibilities in good faith and with the same care an ordinary person would use in managing his/her own affairs.
Duty of Loyalty: Directors and officers must act in good faith and in a manner which does not harm the organization to the benefit of the director or officer. Directors and officers must avoid any conflicts of interest or appearances of impropriety.
Duty of Obedience: Directors and officers must comply with the provisions of the articles of incorporation, bylaws, and state laws, and should safeguard the organization’s mission.
Beyond understanding these three legal duties, it is vital for nonprofit organizations to develop a board of directors that is positioned to carry out these legal duties and contribute to making the organization’s mission a reality.
Here are three strategies nonprofit professionals can use to ensure their nonprofit organization has the right board members on board to fulfill the board’s leadership role within the organization:
- Driven by Mission: Yes, mission matters. Recruit board members that are passionate about your organization’s mission statement. Look for individuals who have taken a keen interest in volunteering at your organization or have shown a financial investment in your organization. Individuals driven to further the organization’s mission often carry their passion into their board leadership role.
- Term Limits: Eliminate the opportunity for perpetual board members. By enforcing term limits and restricting board member terms, your organization is able to continually bring new board members and new ideas into your organization. Check out this complete Q&A list for nonprofit practitioners regarding term limits, compiled by Board Source.
- Board Diversity: Look to secure a diverse board of directors. Diversity goes beyond race, gender and age, but also includes diversity of professional careers, geographic locations and experience with the organization. Try using a board matrix to see what gaps you currently have in your board membership and search to fill gaps that exist. For an example of a board matrix, check out this board matrix example from the Council of Nonprofits.
By ensuring you have a strong board of directors, you are empowering and equipping the board of directors to fulfill their leadership role in the organization. Having the right board on board strengthens the organization and will lead to great success in fulfilling the organization’s mission.