Boards help define the progress and sustainability of a nonprofit. Board training, therefore, is key to successful operational efforts. A good way to orientate a new member is through an understanding of governance. Governance is ensuring the by-laws and mission statement are carried out. Typically, board members are entrusted with the safekeeping of the By-Laws. A copy should accompany the new board member. Board members remain outside of the daily operation, which is the purview of leadership and staff.
Orientation makes sense for a new board member, yet it can be challenging to find the time to devote to properly review the website, previous board meeting minutes, and prior budgets. All of these sources point toward in-depth knowledge of the organization. The board chair, another officer of the board or the Executive Director, can help fill in some of the details.
Joining committees that match the board member’s work experience and knowledge base is a good way to augment the nonprofit’s programs for the community it serves, and to enhance funding from leadership donors and the general giving public. For instance, a good match for the Development Committee is professionals from banking or wealth management who can offer advice and guidelines on policies on how to accurately value a stock, property or artwork.
- Why was I recruited? Board members may hold a position within the community that will serve the needs of the organization. Teachers, principals and Parents/Teachers Association leaders are suitable board member matches for Boys and Girls Clubs or a nonprofit offering after school programs. Physicians, attorneys and real estate brokers might be recruited for transitional housing for women and children where they can advise on health or low-income housing issues and available State funding.
- Another purpose served in board membership is the ability to identify major donors. Individuals can help influence gift-giving through their relationships with prominent professionals. The give or help get principal is essential to understand and accept as a business perspective as well as a philanthropic service of all board members. It’s good to remember revenues maintain programs and projects and make positive changes.
- What other commitments can be expected? Boards help with volunteering at special events such programs as 5K Runs, Walks, Gala and other events in general. A board member should be prepared to provide some funds to offset event costs, everything from purchasing tickets to a table for their guests at galas.
Educating the board members through a review of and approval for program budgets can further inform newly recruited members. Board Retreats benefit the new members and refresh and update the ongoing work. Retreats can be useful in a one full day to several days of a long weekend. Breakout sessions address aspects of governance in role-play, creating strategies for campaigns and learning how to rank order prospective donors for future campaigns effectively. Finally, the role of the board is to support operations and help maintain and grow the organization.