Being a nonprofit board member is a big job. There are a lot of roles and responsibilities to understand before you even attend your first meeting.
To help educate both new and experienced board members, we posed a number of important and frequently asked questions to Dr. Alicia Schatteman, the Acting Director at Northern Illinois University's Center for Nonprofit and NGO Studies and one of the wonderful facilitators for our Board Excellence Program on August 24.
Q: What is the top thing I need to understand before I commit to being part of a nonprofit board?
A: Do your skills, interests, and availability match what the organization needs right now? The board president and most senior staff person should be able to articulate this to you before you join the board. Organizations needs different board members at different times and for different reasons. A good match makes all the difference.
Q: How do we recruit new board members?
A: Start with a profile of what kind of board member the organization needs, for example experience with capital campaigns or hiring the first executive director, then ask for recommendations in your community of people who match that profile. Think outside of traditional networks of your existing board members, keeping in mind that you are looking for a board that is representative of your community’s demographics and commitment to the mission. Identify prospective board members and then find people who are connected to them to make the introduction.
Q: Is it okay if the Executive Director is also part of the board?
A: Typically it is best if the Executive Director is not part of the board since there are obvious conflicts of interest, such as performance evaluations and salary decisions. Some nonprofit boards have the Executive Director as an ex-officio (non-voting) member. Since there is not really a strong reason to have the ED on the board, I would suggest don’t do it.
Q: How much do I need to know about the day-to-day activities of the organization as a board member?
A: If the organization has paid staff, the day-to-day operations are left up to the most senior staff person of the organization. Where it gets tricky is if the organization is all volunteer, and therefore the board may be more involved in the day-to-day operations. Otherwise, hire the right executive director and then get out of his/her way to run the organization you hired him/her to run.
Q: What should I do to prepare for each board meeting?
A: You need to have sufficient time and information to offer advice or make informed decisions during a board meeting. Therefore, the agenda should clearly state what discussions and decisions are under consideration and provide the necessary information. Ideally, board members should receive this information several days in advance to be fully prepared.
Q: Should I be connecting with all staff members of the organization or just the E.D.?
A: The board (collectively) is responsible for hiring, evaluating, firing the ED but certainly board members can engage in conversations with other staff members, to get to know them, to understand their roles, but they are only directed by the ED.
Q: I don’t like asking people for money. Do I have to participate in fundraising?
A: Asking for money is only one step in the fundraising process, so volunteer to get involved in the other four steps! Every board member should be engaged in at least one step in the process to grow a culture of philanthropy.
Q: If our nonprofit organization dissolves, am I responsible for debts?
A: The board collectively has the legal and fiduciary responsibility for the organization while they serve as board members. If the nonprofit cannot pay its creditors, the organization would first dissolve all assets (cash and physical assets) to pay any creditors. If there is still remaining debt, the nonprofit could declare bankruptcy as well.
A special thank you to Dr. Alicia Schatteman for sharing her wisdom with us.
To learn more about becoming a valuable board member for your nonprofit organization, register now for our Board Excellence Program on August 24!
Time to talk about your nonprofit’s board of directors. Why are boards a necessary component of a nonprofit organization? Who are the members that sit on the board? How does an organization find and recruit members? Let’s take a look at why board members are such an integral part of your nonprofit.
To start with, any registered 501(c)(3) organization must have a board of directors. Because this is a tax-exempt status, the IRS legally requires a board of directors. The board is responsible to ensure the nonprofit adheres to the legal, ethical, financial and practical guidelines established for the organization.
Board members should represent your nonprofit and do what’s needed to carry out your mission. This includes recruiting new members, promoting the organization, advocating for your cause and fundraising.
Finding the right board members can be challenging. It requires a hard look at what your organization’s needs are and how best to fill those roles. BoardSource suggests recruiting board members with expertise in the following areas:
Understanding why you need a board of directors and identifying specific needs are only part of the process. Now to find them! That’s a huge undertaking. Here are a few options to consider for recruiting potential members:
Don’t let board member recruiting intimidate you. A carefully developed recruiting plan will serve you well.
Still needing additional guidance. Check out these excellent online resources.
· National Council of Nonprofits
It’s a new year! This is a great time to start creating, reviewing,
updating and implementing new practices for your organization.
This month let’s look at staff training.
Staff training is a critical piece to the success of any organization. Without it employees are flying by the seat of their pants assuming they are doing the right things in their role, but could potentially be doing more harm than good.
Reasons for training vary depending on the goals and needs for the organization. Some of these include:
· Carry out the organization’s mission
· Increasing fundraising
· Improving risk management
· Improving donor, employee, volunteer and client satisfaction
· Career development
Now that you know the why of training let’s look at the how, starting with the "6 Best Practices: Is Your Nonprofit Staff Training Effective?" by Rebecca Wyatt
1. Training should support organizational goals
First, identify attainable goals and work towards them across all actions of our organization. Then, identify learning objectives for each training session that tie directly back to those organizational goals. If the training isn’t going to help you achieve your goals, it’s probably better to invest valuable resources elsewhere.
2. Effective training links to clearly articulated job descriptions and work processes
Similar to articulating organizational goals, you must also clearly articulate job descriptions and work processes. Once those are clearly defined, it’s much easier for your training program to define what success looks like. 3. Vary your training methods
While instructor-led training is great for the delivery of key skills and concepts, nothing beats ongoing coaching for reinforcing those concepts and fine-tuning the results. Remember to keep these sessions fun and engaging
4. New hires should complete a thorough orientation
Start early! Training new employees bonds them with senior staff and conveys that they’re a valued part of the team. New hire orientation also exposes them to the organization’s culture and sets a tone of continuous learning and improvement right from the beginning. Nonprofits are uniquely positioned to inspire new employees around the organization’s mission.
5. Job-related information and training should be readily available
Curating and managing job-related information is an ongoing task as the body of knowledge tends to grow over time. Identify the information and tools employees need to perform their jobs well and invest in a robust knowledge-management system so that they can find it.
6. Create a culture of learning
Leaders must demonstrate that learning is valued by continuously seeking their own professional development opportunities and sharing their enthusiasm with staff.
They must also include learning outcomes in staff professional goal setting and performance evaluations. A culture of learning doesn’t stop at formal training - we learn from each other.
Blog authour Rebecca Wyatt has 15 years of experience in nonprofit management and training, racking up good karma points doing everything from teaching high school English to helping harried nonprofit staff sharpen their software skills. She works for Salsa Labs, a supplier of nonprofit CRM software located in Bethesda, Maryland.
“Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.”
Program & Outreach Director for VCMC