Your not-for-profit board is the face of your organization. Members serve as your head cheerleaders and fundraisers, building the foundation of your organization. In addition to delivering on the not-for-profit’s mission, responsibilities include, but are not limited to:
- Providing strategic planning
- Ensuring financial stability
- Recruiting key staff members
- Delivering on the vision
These individuals are critical to an organization’s success and resilience.
With all of these responsibilities, it is not surprising that recruitment, management, and engagement can be challenging. Finding the right people is critical to making sure you build a team that can equally carry the weight of their responsibilities. So, how do you build a solid not-for-profit board? Start with expectations.
What to Expect from Your Not-for-Profit Board
Most not-for-profit boards are comprised of individuals from different walks of life and varied professions. This is important as different boards require different levels of expertise. For example, most boards can benefit from the expertise of a CPA or an attorney. Some boards may also require the expertise of a qualified medical professional. It’s crucial to determine the specific needs of your board before you begin building it. If you already have a board but feel it’s not meeting its full potential, consider what expertise might be missing.
To build a successful not-for-profit board, you first want to conduct a comprehensive analysis of what your organization needs. Identify these needs before you begin recruitment. Look for a variety of expertise and abilities so that each individual’s contributions are uniquely valuable. Remember these are unpaid professionals who are highly committed to the organization’s activity – it’s important to value their time and input.
In general, a not-for-profit board should have experts in the following fields: accounting, marketing, fundraising, and law.
Professionals join not-for-profit boards for a variety of reasons. These include giving back to their community, seeking networking opportunities, or building onto their experience. While the driving factors may vary, these individuals all have one thing in common – they are willing to contribute their time and expertise to your not-for-profit’s cause.
They have chosen your organization. Now it is up to you to secure their long-term commitment. Provide clear expectations for each member and the board as a whole. People perform better when they understand their roles and responsibilities.
It’s crucial to build a strong board that works well together for your organization to succeed in the long term. Your board must deliver the vision while providing necessary resources for the not-for-profit’s infrastructure. This allows staff and volunteers to complete day-to-day operations.
Once you have outlined expectations and responsibilities for each board member, it is essential to provide ongoing training to the entire board. This will help keep them engaged with your mission and provide professional perks to enhance their individual experience. Utilize online courses, webinars, and other digital resources, as well as in-person conferences and training sessions to keep ideas flowing.
You may even consider incorporating a training schedule that each board member must complete.
Once you have the right group of people, it is vital to provide them with orientation and guidance. Board members will need to understand how not-for-profit agencies work as a whole and how to work together with other organizations and government institutions. Continued education and training are critical to maintaining an effective board.
Value of Committees
One of the secrets of building a solid not-for-profit board is to create committees to help board members focus on a specific mission.
Board committees are small groups of board members, personnel, and volunteers who give professional counseling for the board. The primary purpose of building board committees is for these smaller groups to focus on a specific idea or problem facing a not-for-profit organization. Led by an individual board member, this group utilizes the resources of additional volunteers to solve an issue.
Building committees has multiple benefits, including:
- Outline specific duties for each board member
- Ensure effective use of the expertise, abilities, and aptitudes of each board member
- Present offers, research, and advice to the board
When building your not-for-profit board, consider the following:
Legal Requirements. Make sure to verify the rules given by the state in which you are developing the not-for-profit organization. For example, a minimum of three board members is typically required to build a board of directors.
Term Length. The state guidance determines the minimum and maximum term length of the group of advisers.
Passion. Aside from abilities and expertise, a board member must also have passion for your cause. The group of advisers should be eager to work on accomplishing the not-for-profit’s mission and devoted to executing their responsibilities.
Building a solid not-for-profit board is possible when you set expectations, recruit the right people and provide direction and resources to achieve their mission.
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