<img alt="" src="https://secure.leadforensics.com/167082.png" style="display:none;">

Have a question? Call us  877-735-7693

Building a Strong Board of Directors for Nonprofits


9 min read

April 16, 2024

Outsourced accounting for nonprofits

Building a strong board is essential to your mission's success because a nonprofit's board of directors is a governing body responsible for the leadership of the nonprofit organization. The board should provide foresight, oversight, and insights to improve the organization as a whole, helping it to accomplish its mission.

Key Takeaways

The board provides a high-level strategy and operational plan that is then communicated to the organization's executive director for implementation.

A nonprofit board of directors is generally responsible for:

  • Oversight and governance
  • Enforcing accountability
  • Selecting and hiring an executive director
  • Providing guidance and advice
  • Developing a high-level strategy
  • Identifying, anticipating, and solving problems
  • Expanding the donor network
  • Directly supporting the mission

A nonprofit board of directors, in a sense, acts like the CEO and/or CFO of a for-profit organization. It is the board's responsibility to:

  • Create a future vision and goals for the organization
  • Devise a strategy to achieve the vision
  • Guide and support the executive director and staff in the execution of the strategy

Don't Let Your Mission Get Derailed By Bad Financial Management.

Get Customized Pricing For Your Nonprofit!

10 Qualities of a Good Board Member

The curation of a strong nonprofit board relies on the selection of high-quality, individual board members. Look for the following qualities in the individuals you choose for your nonprofit board:

1. Passionate About Your Cause

Choose nonprofit board members who align with the values of your organization and support your mission. If any member of your board has values, political beliefs, or priorities that significantly differ from those of your nonprofit's mission, then they will not be a good fit - regardless of who they know or the incredible skills they offer. If your board members are not aligned with your mission, then they will struggle to deliver appropriate guidance and create an effective strategy to achieve the nonprofit's goals.

Read More: How Much Do Bookkeeping & Accounting Services for Nonprofits Cost?

2. Ready and Able to Participate

A candidate for your board might be perfectly aligned with your mission, but they also need to have the ability to actively participate and make a real commitment to your organization. If a candidate for your board lacks free time in their schedule, the ability to attend meetings, or the ability to participate in events, then they might not be a good choice for your organization. At least not until their schedule clears up.

3. Ability to Be Prepared

In addition to being able to attend meetings and participate in events, board members must also understand that the commitment extends beyond these official gatherings to dedicating time to preparing for these events. For example, they need to be able to review meeting materials ahead of the meeting so that they can participate and add value. Meetings should not focus on distributing information but, rather, on discussing information and strategizing.

4. Eager to Form and Join Committees

Another way for board members to serve the nonprofit is by organizing, leading, or joining committees. If a board member is only serving on the board but not actively leading or helping out with committees, then they aren't pulling the full weight of their position.

5. Offer Their Own Ideas

Board members can take directions and help out where needed, but they should also bring their own thoughts and ideas to the table. A nonprofit board should serve a visionary role for the organization. As a result, it's the responsibility of board members to form these visions, set goals, and deliver creative strategies for turning their lofty dreams into reality.

6. Cast a Wide Networking Net

While it isn't always necessary, it certainly can be helpful to have board members who are well-connected because board members also bring their professional and personal networks to the table. They should be able to use their networks to help drum up support (financial and otherwise) for the nonprofit.

7. Curiosity and Willingness to Learn

Board members should bring their own set of skills, knowledge, and experience to the table when serving. They should also be curious, open, and willing to learn. Curiosity is an exceptional trait in board members because it leads to the right questions being asked and the right avenues being explored on behalf of your nonprofit.

8. Truly Values Service and Stewardship

There are lots of potential board members out there. In fact, many professionals will agree to sit on a nonprofit's board in exchange for a good-looking resume bullet. These types of board members, however, won't have much to offer your organization. Instead, look for board members who are excited about stewardship and service. They should be eager to participate in events, serve on committees, and even donate their own time and money (if capable) to your cause.

Board Of Directors Vs. Executive Directors Responsibilities

nonprofit board of directors

It's good to know the roles and responsibilities of Nonprofit board members!

9. Ability to Communicate

Communication skills are key for nonprofit board members. At most, your board will be able to meet once a month, and these meetings must be productive. If a board member lacks good communication skills (inside and outside of meetings), this will hinder the function of the board as a whole and its ability to effectively guide the nonprofit.

10. Values Ethics and Legal Responsibilities to the Nonprofit

It should go without saying, but while focusing on other qualities of potential board members, considerations of the individual's character should not be overlooked. Board members must understand their legal responsibility of serving a on board. They need to understand that their role is to benefit and protect the organization, not themselves.

You absolutely must select board members who have integrity and who will operate ethically in your organization.

The Impact of Diversity on Your Nonprofit Board of Directors

A strong board of directors is also characterized by diversity, diversity in both skills and backgrounds. Depending on your organization's mission, it might attract board members who come from similar personal and professional backgrounds or who have similar skill sets. It is important, however, for the sake of your organization's success to do your best to diversify your board.

Diversification will improve the board's ability to operate creatively, come up with unique strategies, and deliver innovative solutions to your challenges. Additionally, it's good to have a board that can offer a well-rounded set of talents and skills. It can be highly beneficial to have board members with professional backgrounds that will benefit the nonprofit in a variety of ways. For example, consider what board members with legal or financial expertise can do for your organization in addition to copywriters, marketers, videographers, and graphic designers.

How to Support and Retain Board Members to Drive Your Mission Forward

One aspect of board members that is often overlooked is the fact that they choose to serve voluntarily. This means they can walk away at any time for any reason. So, in addition to selecting board members with the right qualities, nonprofits must take steps to hold onto good board members when they find them in order to maintain a strong nonprofit board.

In many ways, board member retention strategies are similar to employee retention strategies. Board member retention strategies focus on providing support in addition to simplifying the board members' roles whenever possible, communicating clearly, creating a positive culture, and showing appreciation when it is deserved.

Read More: What Nonprofit Board Members Should Know About Nonprofit Accounting

Provide Clear Expectations

When a new member is joining your board, clearly explain what is expected of them in this new position. Explain the time commitment that serving on the board will require in addition to any duties the individual will be responsible for. Make sure they understand the function of the board and your organization's mission and that they are ready to commit when they are selected.

Assign Mentors to New Members

Board members are entering your nonprofit organization in leadership positions, but this doesn't mean they are exempt from training and onboarding like a normal employee would receive.

When a new person joins your board, be sure to offer training and help. One of the most effective ways to quickly envelope a new board member and bring them up to speed is to assign them a mentor. Partnering a new board member with a seasoned board member will help them acclimate, provide them with a contact if they have any questions, and make it easier for them to learn the ins and outs of board membership.

Are you running your Nonprofit like a For-profit?  7 Reports Your Nonprofit  Should Be Looking at An Executive Director's Guide To Board & Management Reports.management reports for nonprofits

Distribute Information Before Meetings

Your board of directors will be better able to serve your organization if they are able to use their valuable meeting time to discuss performance, solve problems, and develop strategies - rather than reading through your financial reports and other data. Be sure to distribute information for board meetings well in advance so that your board members have a chance to review the information and come up with a few talking points and ideas before they are all together at the meeting table.

Read More: Bookkeepers vs. Accountants: What Nonprofit Leaders Need to Know

Provide and Use Tools to Facilitate the Board's Function

Your board members should have clear instructions and tools for communicating with each other. You should provide communication, management, and collaboration tools for your board to use and offer some guidelines for how you think these tools can be most effectively implemented to support their governance role.

Recognize and Reward Exceptional Participation

If you have a board member who is consistently going above and beyond to serve your organization, make sure you recognize and reward their efforts. This recognition can come in the form of an award you present at a public event, an announcement you make during the next meeting, a personal lunch or dinner meeting where you take them out to celebrate, or another type of reward that clearly demonstrates your deep appreciation.

Help Your Board Do Its Job: Delivering Financials Designed for Leadership and Strategy

A nonprofit board requires lots of information to assess the organization's performance, evaluate strategies, and implement changes for improvement. This requires a solid back office that accurately and automatically captures and organizes data to deliver timely and accurate financial and management reports.

Creating a high-functioning back office with solely in-house staff can take a major toll on a nonprofit's budget because back-office employees don't come cheap. This, however, does not mean that a robust back office is out of reach for nonprofit organizations. Outsourced accounting service providers can implement back-office systems designed to streamline and automate the data collection and reporting to deliver better board reports and facilitate effective nonprofit planning and management.

Frustration from inaccurate financials ends here. Speak To An Expert.

Subscribe Here!