By John Gilchrist
High performing board members make a difference.
Most small business owners have involvement with nonprofit organizations. In fact, over 80% of Americans affiliate with nonprofits through direct giving, volunteer service, or governing board service. As you evaluate your options in serving your favorite nonprofit organization (NPO), consider the primary responsibilities of a board member holding one of these positions:
Governance – Components of effective governance include
Strategic planning – how can the Board best support the NPO over the course of time, reflecting the mission/vision/values of the NPO
Policy making – creating the avenues (i.e. gift acceptance policy, charitable gift annuity policy, etc.) to achieve the plan within the guidelines of the NPO
Financial integrity – effective stewardship of existing resources (i.e. spending policy), and personal involvement to achieve funding objectives (i.e. specific projects) for the NPO
Loyalty – showing ownership of and pride in the mission/vision/values of the NPO, supporting the decisions made by the board, regardless of whether you personally agree with the decision
Confidentiality – never betraying the trust of donors and the relationships between board members, donors, and staff; keeping discussions at board meetings within the room.
Advocacy – A truly unique opportunity and privilege to express your view on philanthropy and to educate about how support of the NPO’s mission positively impacts the community. A board member holding this position must educate, inform, and motivate others of the importance of philanthropy – it’s more than asking friends for support. Philanthropy embodies an environment where persons who are interested in an organization’s mission can support the mission in a number of ways:
- Financial support,
- Encouragement of others to become involved,
- Volunteer service – be it within Horizons to help with clients, at a NPO event, such as hosting a parlor event, executive briefing, etc. or some other way that meets the individual’s need to feel part of a cause.
Philanthropy represents supporting a mission that is bigger than any individual. Understanding how the NPO fulfills a vital role in the community helps the board member become an ‘ambassador’ – one who can tell the story with sincerity and passion. When you answer ‘why are you involved with the NPO?’ you are the NPO’s best advertisement!
Recruitment – Just as discharge planning begins upon patient admission to a hospital, so should the identification of like-minded persons who share a passion for the NPO’s mission. Affluence is nice, but a sincere interest in how the NPO affects the lives and health of a community is crucial to the long-term viability. The ideal board member is knowledgeable about local resources and is willing to introduce Horizons and the NPO to those resources.
Giving – This board position should not be predicated on any specific expectations about giving a certain amount to the NPO. This person should be committed to giving time, talent, and treasure. Giving one’s treasure is a personal matter, dependent on the individual’s beliefs and financial situation, not on any requirement of the Foundation. Board members should express their belief in the NPO through whatever level of leadership giving is right for the individual. Persons who give to the NPO because they believe in it are more likely to be successful in other areas, specifically recruitment and introducing the NPO to others.
Fiduciary Responsibility – Serving on a nonprofit board carries specific legal responsibilities (duty of care, duty of loyalty, and duty of obedience) and fiduciary obligations to safeguard the assets of the Foundation.
While some organizations place this goal within the governance section, it is separated here for emphasis to acknowledge the added scrutiny of nonprofit organizations by a variety of external sources (i.e. IRS, Guidestar, State Attorneys General, etc.)
Serving on a nonprofit board represents a significant investment in time, talent, and treasure. Knowing the expectations as you consider this very special level of service can make the experience fulfilling and rewarding.
After 20 years of experience in the nonprofit sector, both as a board member and executive, I look for ward to conversations about ideas for specific goals and board room effectiveness. If you think you can improve a situation, you’re right, you can! The more educated you are on the nuances of board membership, the more you can do.
John Gilchrist, FAHP, CFRE, is a leader in the nonprofit sector, guiding business owners with philanthropic outreaches to fill board positions, generate productive funding and create an overall rewarding scenario that impacts positively the community at large. Visit http://FundraiserStrategies.com to discover what John can do for YOUR nonprofit and contact John@PhilanthropyFocus.net or call 469-215-1651 today. Look for the Philanthropy Focus advertisement in The OffBeat Business Magazine.