The Joys of Serving on a Board
The past six months has taught me many things, one of which is the importance of a board of directors. For instance why do people serve to begin with, what motivates them and why do so many sign-up to serve and then become uninvolved? As this does happen more than most realize.
I have run non-profits and have always asked (annually as well as upon coming aboard), “Why do you serve on this board and what are your personal goals as a board member?” This exercise is done verbally and written, as to share with the entire team (board and staff) and as a take-home to post in an office as a reminder. Because you always need to keep in mind when at the level of serving on a board (being asked for that matter), normally you are extremely busy with your own career, and things can get overlooked.
Often times board members actually want to be given very specific tasks, not left to figure out how their assistance can best serve the organization.
Deciding to serve on a board can be a daunting task, not to mention taking an oath that you will protect and serve the organization. A dear friend recently summed up serving on a board perfectly when he said, “It’s the law of three’s.”
- Is the organization one of the top three places you give your OWN money too?
- Do you freely open your personal Rolodex and set-up at least three meetings with the CEO/Executive Director per year. For possible support?
- You need to attend at least three events per year, or at least host one. Can be a dinner/cocktail party, etc.
Here is a responsibility write-up I drafted for a non-profit client. I hope it’s helpful if you not only serve on a board, but also run an organization. Of course for-profit boards are run differently, however, similar in many ways.
Board of Directors Responsibilities
To act as a voting member of the board with full authority and responsibility to develop policies for the operation of the organization; to monitor the organization’s financial health, programs, and overall performance; and to provide the chief executive officer with the resources to meet the needs of those persons the organization serves.
The Full Board’s Responsibilities:
- Establish policy
- Hire and evaluate the executive director
- Secure adequate funding for the organization
- Monitor finances
- Create and update a long‑range plan for the organization
- Select and support the organization’s board officers
- Adopt key operating policies; approve contracts as appropriate
Individual Board Member’s Duties:
- Attend board meetings regularly
- Become knowledgeable about the organization
- Come to board meetings well prepared and informed about all issues on the agenda
- Contribute to meetings by expressing your point of view
- Consider other points of view, make constructive suggestions, and help the board make decisions that benefit those the organization serves
- Serve on at least one committee
- Represent the organization to individuals, the public, and other organizations in a positive and professional manner
- Support the organization through attendance at special events and through meaningful financial contributions; commit to making _________one of your top charitable priorities
- Assume board leadership roles when asked
- Keep the executive director/CEO informed about concerns the community may have
- Maintain confidentiality of board discussion
Board members set corporate policies and goals and delegate authority to the executive director to implement them in the day‑to‑day management of the organization. Individual members of the board, however, have no authority to act independently of the full board. When they do, it can seriously damage the organization’s ability to carry out its mission, board team spirit, and the organization’s image in the community. Board members who abuse their position this way may be disciplined or censured.
Board members are also “trustees” of their organization who approve an annual budget that ensures it can meet its financial needs. In addition, Board members monitor the overall financial health of their organization by reviewing annual reports of an auditor recommended by the executive director. The executive director retains responsibility for the day‑to‑day operational expenditures.
Individual board members should attend all board meetings and actively participate in them and serve on committees or as board officers. Finally, board members have the responsibility to know and fulfill their proper role as board members and to act in the best interest of those persons the organization serves.
I hope this inspires you to think carefully before serving on a board. It can be extremely rewarding and active board members are needed regardless of where you reside. Please share ‘Think About It’ with your friends, colleagues and anyone who wants to simply live in a caring community and stay better informed. Happy serving!