Non-Profits: Setting expectations with your Board of Directors

non profit BOD

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You’ve been asked to sit on a Non-Profit Board of Directors – but do you really know what that entails?  Did the Executive Director set some clear expectations with you?  If the answer to both of those questions is “No” – you aren’t alone. 

Non-profit CEOs and Executive teams often struggle with board members either not meshing with their culture/core values or the most popular complaint is “They just aren’t active”.

Here are the 10 generally accepted expectations when you sit on a BOD

  1.  Show up.  All Non-profits have regularly scheduled Board meetings – often these are planned out and given to the members in advance.  If you are going to commit to being on a board, you need to commit to showing up at the meetings.  Meetings require a quorum to pass agenda items so it’s important to have the entire team there
  2. Give fiduciary guidance and oversight.  This will vary based on the size of the organization – smaller non-profits often do not have accountants, CFOs or bookkeepers so the board handles everything from payroll to budgeting.  In larger organizations the board is generally asked – at minimum – to review budgets, review investments and perform salary reviews
  3. General guidance and advice.  Board members have to be accessible outside of the regularly scheduled meetings – they are essentially the governing leadership and often this requires stepping in if needed !
  4. Giving of time and/or money.  Yes, if you sit on a non-profit board it is assumed you will also become a donor both of time and/or money.  It’s important for new board members to understand the lay of the land – what is expected of them financially.
  5. Non-profits assume they are a philanthropic priority.  This doesn’t mean that you can’t or shouldn’t give to others – but Organizations and board members need to be realistic, as many of us sit on multiple boards – when members overextend, it never bodes well for both the organization and the individuals.
  6. Be a master networker & connector.  When you are on a board get ready to tap into your network and bring people into the inner circle of your non-profit – that includes donors, and potential board members/employees.
  7. Serve on committees that tie into your expertise.  If you are in banking – be prepared to be asked to sit on a finance board, marketing – the marketing committee, fundraising – development.
  8. Be a leader NOT a manager.  Your role on a board is to NOT micromanage the organization but to be an advisor and supporter.  Leave the day to day operations to the staff UNLESS they ask you for help!
  9. Be the Face.  It’s important to realize you will be expected to show up at major events such as fundraisers, galas.  Many non-profits ask their board members to host events at their home, country club or social organization as well.
  10. Help the Development team.  This usually includes writing thank you notes, annual appeal letters and even meeting with major donor prospects or legacy prospects.

In the end it’s all about communication between the board members and the executive team of the organization.  When everyone is crystal clear on their roles and they are a united front – the board is productive…and happy.

Margret K. Warner
Vice President, Commercial Lender
Director of Business Services

Author: Margret Warner

Margret Warner started her career at Litchfield Bancorp in 2000 as Branch Manager in Washington Depot and has subsequently served as Branch Manager of the Litchfield office, Business Development Officer and is currently a Commercial Lender based in the Watertown market. With over 25 years of banking experience, Margret brings her extensive knowledge of the financial services industry to area businesses. Margret resides in Torrington and is committed to the communities where she works and lives as a member of the Watertown Rotary and advisor of Leadership NW. In addition, she serves on the board of the Watertown/Oakville Chamber, the United Way of Northwest Connecticut, VNA Northwest, Inc., and the NW CT Chamber of Commerce. She is a graduate of the esteemed ABA Stonier Graduate School of Banking, and holds a BBA in Accounting from Hofstra University.