A thriving board of directors is a passionate, mission-focused group ready to help your nonprofit be the best it can be. We’ve partnered with our friends at Charitable Allies to explore some of the ways you can structure your board roles so you can carry out your purpose with precision and best practices.
Once you’ve learned the basics about nonprofit board of directors and feel ready to begin recruiting, it’s time to start considering which board members will also hold certain roles, or offices. All of your board members are “directors,” but “officers” hold an additional title to help your board run smoothly.
Initial board officers are elected by the board as a whole. Many boards start with three common offices: board chair/president, secretary, and treasurer. On the state-level, every state requires board officers, but many organizations find that their state has other unique requirements in this area. Always play it safe and double check.
In addition to the typical duties of a board member, each officer position has unique responsibilities. We’ve outlined them below so you can set clear expectations for your officers so they can help strengthen your board.
Your board’s president (sometimes called the board chair) is your board’s supervisor in many ways. In addition to facilitating board meetings and encouraging other directors to actively participate, the board president is also typically the primary point of contact with executive management, working closest with the CEO or executive director. Sometimes, this person is the CEO or executive director, but keep in mind these roles are separate in function.
Other main duties may include:
- Leading fundraising efforts, internally and externally
- Welcoming new board members and arranging orientations
- Heading up the executive director’s annual performance evaluation
- If applicable, addressing and sometimes mediating board conflict
- Representing the organization when approached by the media or other groups
The board secretary accurately records and maintains meeting minutes for each board meeting. They’ll also keep up with directors’ contact information to inform them about upcoming meetings. A board secretary’s other primary job is to monitor the nonprofit’s activities to make sure the actions of the organization follow the bylaws. These responsibilities can help the organization avoid liability issues or other common board mistakes!
The board treasurer is the officer responsible for managing the organization’s budget and records of receipts and disbursements. While the treasurer is not required to be an accountant, this person should have experience in keeping track of financials and be the organization’s point of accountability—even if the bookkeeping is outsourced. This person is usually one of the signatories for the nonprofit’s bank accounts.
Other Roles and Positions
Many nonprofit board of directors include a vice president position, so that they can fill in for the board president/chair if necessary. This officer may also be assigned by the president to carry out certain assignments.
Some boards, if large enough, also separate into committees to oversee different areas of the organization. Board officers may delegate work to the heads of these committees for initiative such as:
- Governance committees to recruit and onboard new directors
- Risk committees to review financial policies and evaluate key liabilities
- Marketing/communication committees to loop in efforts on advertising, media presence, audience feedback, etc.
- Fundraising committees focused on soliciting grants and donations and planning fundraising events
There may be more possibilities for committees depending on the size and needs of your organization. You may find that you’d rather keep your board structure as simple as can be, or you may feel the need to group directors to focus on certain tasks. There isn’t a right or wrong way to organize your board. The most important part is that your board is effective in helping your nonprofit accomplish its mission.
Mobilizing Your Team
Once you’ve evaluated your board’s strengths and have identified ways to move your organization forward, strategic planning is an excellent next step! We’d love to assist your board of directors with its vision and programming priorities, measuring impact, or best practices for bookkeeping. Your board’ role is an essential puzzle piece in the overall scheme of your organization, so let us know if we can help your board through consulting or any other needs.