Non-profit organizations in today’s business climate are expected to meet increasingly large demands while operating with small staffs and limited resources. In order to ensure sustainable success, non-profits must have in place effective, focused and committed leadership.
That starts with the organization’s Board of Directors.
Boards of directors (or boards of trustees) hold a great deal of responsibility in advancing non-profit organizations’ missions and leading the organizations toward successful futures. Some responsibilities of a non-profit board include:
Strategic planning: The board should always be thinking about the “big picture.” From determining the organization’s mission and purpose to enhancing the organization’s public image, the board is responsible for the overall health of the non-profit.
Selecting executive staff: Who will be the public face of the organization? That is one of the first and most important questions a non-profit board must answer. While the board operates behind the scenes to steer the organization in the right direction, the executive staff manages the day-to-day operations.
Overseeing (and evaluating) executive leadership: The board should support the organization’s executive staff, making sure they have the resources and moral support they need to effectively do their jobs. Every organization hopes to avoid overturn, but – should the board deem it necessary – it does have the authority to remove executive leaders and team members.
Budget approval: Serving as the non-profit’s governing body, the board is responsible for securing and strategically allocating financial resources in order to advance the organization’s mission. This is typically done through the approval of the annual budget.
Setting compensation: While the board is not usually involved in setting individual staff salaries, they usually do this through the overall budget process.
Fundraising: Non-profits’ annual budgets typically rely heavily on fundraising efforts. As the board is in charge of approving the organization’s budget, is is also responsible for ensuring the organization has the money it needs to fulfill its mission.
Recruiting new members to the board: Membership on non-profit boards is typically very fluid. Board members step down for a variety of reasons, and new members are brought in to replace them. To ensure long-term success, an effective board will articulate clear prerequisites for members and offer training and guidance to new members.
Serving on a non-profit board can be a tremendously rewarding and enriching opportunity for any professional. But, as you can see, it also comes with a great deal of responsibility.
Michelle Y. Hatch, CPA, is an accounting partner with BlumShapiro, the largest regional business advisory firm based in New England, with offices in Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island.
The firm, with over 400 professionals and staff, offers a diversity of services, which includes auditing, accounting, tax and business advisory services. In addition, BlumShapiro provides a variety of specialized consulting services, such as succession and estate planning, business technology services, employee benefit plan audits, litigation support and valuation. The firm serves a wide range of privately held companies, government and non-profit organizations and provides non-audit services for publicly traded companies.
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