Non-Profit Board Governance 101

Sep 18, 2023 | Advocacy, Blog, Board Development, Board Training, Brand Positioning

Serving on a non-profit board can be a rewarding experience. Board members are essential to supporting the work of the non-profit, and your time, talent and treasure are invaluable.

It is also a tremendous responsibility. It’s not simply a great way to give back to the community. As a board member you are part of the governing body that ensures the organization is operating responsibly; fiscally, legally, and ethically.

non-profit board governance

Too often, people join boards without a clear understanding of their role and the expectations for how they can support the organization.

Here are a few ways organizations and board members can be more impactful:

  • Read the by-laws. They aren’t something to refer to only in a challenging moment. They are designed to guide how the board functions and operates. The board should review the by-laws every year – this is usually a task completed by the governance committee which then raises any concerns or suggestions for discussion by the entire board to ensure they are relevant and up-to-date.
  • Orientation. All new board members should attend an orientation meeting so that they may understand how the board operates and expectations for their term of service, and have the opportunity to ask questions.
  • Advocate on behalf of the organization. One of the most impactful ways a board member can support an organization is to leverage their network to elevate the organization’s brand awareness. Make strategic introductions for organizational leadership to members of your network who could support the goals of the organization. Share information on social media. Invite friends to organizational events.

Understanding non-profit principles and industry best practices is critical to ensuring you as a board member are successful in supporting the organization you serve. Don’t assume that fellow board members are well-versed either; sometimes people serve on boards for years without ever comprehending their role or even how a non-profit operates. This is not an issue for young or grassroots organizations either! Even legacy non-profits can be poorly governed.

Board Source provides a wealth of information to help board members to better understand their roles and responsibilities.

Another great resource is The Standards for Excellence program.

If you serve on a board that is in need of a governance analysis or leadership training, contact us today!

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