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The 5 Core Responsibilities of Nonprofit Board Members

by Suzanne Battit

Senior Vice President, Principal

Posted August 8, 2019

Naturally, all nonprofit board members should be passionate about the organization’s mission and believe in the importance of their work and the communities who benefit. However, it takes more than passion to be a strong and effective contributor and leader. Whether your organization has long prioritized board health or has chosen more recently to invest in its significance, the core responsibilities explored below can serve as an important reminder and guiding post. They can also be helpful if you yourself are considering pursuing a board member role.

The 5 core responsibilities of all nonprofit board members are to…

  1. Hold Fiduciary Responsibility
    This is the most important role for any member of a fiduciary board! Board members must help ensure the long-term financial stability and fiscal responsibility of the organization by setting and monitoring an appropriate budget each year, establishing a multi-year plan that is reviewed annually, and helping to ensure that the organization has strong financial practices and controls in place. And an important distinction to keep in mind – this responsibility applies specifically to fiduciary board members (as opposed to members of an advisory board).
  2. Serve as an Ambassador
    The best board members make it a priority to promote the mission and importance of the organization whenever appropriate/possible. Whether it be during casual conversation at a local networking event or as a spokesperson at a donor gala for the nonprofit, board members should be ready to deliver a targeted pitch that highlights the organization’s mission, impact, and path for growth in a way that will speak to, inspire, and engage their audience.
  3. Be a ‘Connector’
    Board members should engage personal and professional networks in an effort to support the nonprofit. By doing so, the board member can help cultivate prospective donors, recruit staff, and/or identify potential additional board members. Furthermore, board members should consider gaps in representation on the current board—whether it be in regards to specific industries, skill set and backgrounds, or cultural and socioeconomic diversity—to target ideal board member prospects.
  4. Support the Organization Financially
    Once viewed as a luxury, board financial support is now often a necessity, as increased philanthropy is required to fulfil strategic objectives. A philanthropically engaged board member can set the tone for giving for other board members and the organization’s community. Use these rules of thumb: a board member should include the organization as one of their top three philanthropic priorities, and a healthy board should aim to contribute at least 10% of the annual revenue raised.
  5. Ensure Long-term Board Strength
    One final important responsibility a board member should take on is helping to build the future board member “pipeline” and keep board succession planning top of mind. Board members should think about the strengths they bring to the board and who they would recommend to replace them when their term comes to an end. Maintaining an active, strong, and engaged pipeline that is reviewed on a regular basis will help to ensure a continually strong and healthy board.

Development Guild DDI partners with nonprofit leaders to drive their mission forward with fresh perspective and high impact solutions. Learn more about our executive search and fundraising and campaign services.

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