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Who Should Serve on the Board of Directors?

Who should serve on the board of directors is probably one of the most frequently asked questions for nonprofit and ministry leaders. Going beyond the IRS and state requirements that there must be a board, a board of directors can and should be helpful to organization in the fulfilment of its mission. And, the board is also responsible for the future of the organization.

As you are seeking board members, below are some points to consider:

  • Board members should be personally committed to the mission of the organization. When people are committed, they are more likely to give of their time, talent and treasure and they will be focused on doing what is in the best interest of the organization. Be careful about allowing the wealthy individual in your community to serve on the board even though he or she never comes to meetings. Find another role for this individual, perhaps an advisory role instead of a governing role.
  • Ensure that all board members understand their roles and responsibilities. Provide them with a board orientation and ongoing board development.
  • Have policies in place that indicate board terms. These policies are usually included in an organization’s by-laws. If this was never included in your organization’s, you may want to consider amending them. Term limits let a board member know that they are not making a lifetime commitment but they also let an organization know that a board member is not going to be around forever.
  • Board members serve in a volunteer capacity-they are not compensated for their service on the boards of nonprofits or ministries. They can be reimbursed for reasonable expenses associated with travel or other activities authorized by the full board.
  • The board should have independent and unrelated members. Be careful about having family members serve on the board, they are not considered independent. Ideally, boards should have at least five members, but be careful about making the board too large—running a large board can make it difficult to come to consensus and can become a lot like herding cats.
  • The Executive Director of an organization typically serves on the board in an ex officio It is important that he or she attends board meetings as he or she has all of the information about what goes on in the organization on a day to day basis. But, generally, the Executive Director does not get a vote.
  • Generally, it is not a good idea for other staff members to serve on the board of directors. Having staff on the board can create awkward situations. For instance, is an employee is not performing well, the Executive Director may not be able to terminate the individual because they serve on the board. Since the board is the boss of the Executive Director, the situation can become very difficult to manage. Best to leave employees off the board.

Viewing board development as an ongoing continuous process will ensure that your board is strong, vibrant and governs well. Strong boards help develop thriving organizations.

What questions do you have about board service?

One Comment

  • Iris says:

    This information was extremely helpful for me. I am in the beginning stages of starting a non profit organization.

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