So you want to become a board member

Non-Profit Boards

Being a board member can be a rewarding way to make a contribution to your community and beyond. It's a way to share your knowledge and expertise and gain valuable skills as well as life experiences at the same time. However, before you decide to invest your time and energy, it is important to understand what is involved in becoming a board member:

What you need to know:

  • What is a Board?
  • Typical Duties of a Board
  • Types of Boards
  • Responsibilities of Board Members

What is a Board?

A board is a body of elected or appointed members who jointly oversee the activities of an organization. These members have the responsibility of ensuring the work of the organization is carried out and for decisions and actions carried out by the organization. Other responsibilities can vary depending on the type of board you serve.

Typical Duties of a Board

Although duties can vary slightly depending on the nature and focus of a particular board the following duties are fairly consistent:

  • Governing the organization by establishing broad policies and objectives
  • Selecting, appointing, supporting and reviewing the performance of the chief executive
  • Ensuring the availability of adequate financial resources
  • Approving annual budgets
  • Accounting to the stakeholders for the organization’s performance

Type of Boards

Working Board

  • Members oversee work in a specific area of work (i.e. public relations, fundraising)
  • Many non-profit organizations have a working board

Policy Board

  • Board members set policies for the organization which are carried out by paid staff
  • Larger boards (i.e. professional boards or international boards) have policy boards

Fundraising Board

  • Board members are responsible for raising funds to support the organization
  • Many community or social service agencies have fundraising boards

Responsibilities of a Board member

Although responsibilities can vary slightly depending on the nature and focus of a particular board the following responsibilities are fairly consistent:

Attending scheduled meetings

  • Be prepared for meetings
  • Be knowledgeable about the organization (i.e. vision, mission, goals)
  • Be prepared to ask difficult questions
  • Complete assigned tasks

Establish leadership

  • Ensure work of the organization is completed
  • Contribute to the establishment of policies that govern the organization
  • Ensure organization has funds required to operate
  • Ensure funds are spent in the best interest of the organization o Contribute to problem-solving

Contribute to establishment of Policies

  • Develop strategies to ensure success of the organization
  • Ensure comprehensive policies are in place that will help govern the organization
  • Develop or support existing financial policies
  • Comply with existing laws/requirements with respect to reporting and auditing
  • Ensure a sound financial framework is in place to support and/or adhere to budget constraints

Best practice tip

Best practices suggest that boards continually review and assess their level of knowledge and undergo regular governance training.

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