What is a Board Member at Large? (Overview, Roles, and Responsibilities)

  • By: Josh Palmer
  • December 22, 2023
board member at large
Reading Time: 3 minutes

Within a board of directors, there are various board member positions, including board president, vice president, secretary, and treasurer. But a board of directors relies on the expertise of several internal and external advisors, meaning not every board director holds a title. 

Board directors who don’t serve a specific role are referred to as board members at large. Without a unique title, these board members still serve a vital role. Learn more about their responsibilities.

What is a Board Member at Large?

As mentioned above, a board member at large is a full board member who doesn’t hold a defined position within the board of directors. Instead, they serve as a general board member without specific portfolio responsibilities. They’re separate from ex officio board members, who typically don’t have voting rights.

The board member at large role often involves participating in board meetings, providing input on key decisions, and contributing expertise or guidance on matters relevant to the organization’s mission and objectives. Since at-large members don’t have specific duties, they’re often assigned tasks by the chair or board vote, which can align with their skill sets. 

Other than having flexible duties, a board member at large is as influential as any other board member. They attend board meetings, can join committees, and are full voting members. A board member at large can even serve as a committee chair.

A board member at large serves a critical role in a governing board of directors. Because they do not have one permanent set of duties, they are available to take on tasks as the board’s strategy evolves or urgent matters become apparent.

The importance of a board member at large lies in their ability to offer a broad perspective and diverse insights to the board. They bring a wealth of knowledge, experience, and skills from various backgrounds, which can enrich discussions, enhance decision-making processes, and ensure the board considers a wide range of viewpoints.

Board Meeting

Ensure effective, efficient meetings with our comprehensive Board Meeting Agenda Template.

Roles and Responsibilities

The specific responsibilities of a board member at large may vary depending on the organization’s bylaws, the nature of the organization, and the established governance structure. In general, they include: 

1. Governance and Policy Development

Board members at large participate in the development, review, and distribution of an organization’s governance policies, bylaws, and strategic plans. In this role, they may draft, debate, review, and distribute the governance policies of their organization, including board term limits and roles of the executive board.

2. Financial Oversight

Board members at large help ensure the organization’s financial stability by reviewing financial documents and preparing budgets. They may also make recommendations and decisions related to budgeting and fundraising for the organization or for specific projects or committees.

3. Decision-Making

As a member of the board, board members at large participate in board meetings and discussions as voting members. They contribute to making informed decisions on expenditures, programmatic initiatives, organizational policies, and other activities the board may vote on. 

4. Advocacy and Outreach

Many board members at large act as ambassadors for the organization,  promoting its mission and activities to external stakeholders, including potential donors and the broader community. They may head committees or oversee community outreach projects as part of this role.

5. Oversight and Evaluation

Lastly, board members at large are often placed in a role of oversight and evaluation. This includes the evaluation of the organization’s performance, including the performance of its CEO and executive director.

Achieve Board Alignment with OnBoard

Board members at large are extremely useful to a board with flexible needs and rotating projects. And they can accomplish even more when empowered with the right tools and technology. OnBoard, a board portal platform, streamlines governance with a secure board portal that features user-friendly design, intuitive meeting creation tools, insightful analytics, and real-time collaboration.

Download OnBoard’s free board meeting minutes template to see how the best boards write their minutes to accurately and legally reflect what occurred during the board meeting.

Board Management Software

The comprehensive blueprint for selecting a results-driven board management vendor.

About The Author

Josh Palmer
Josh Palmer
Josh Palmer serves as OnBoard's Head of Content. An experienced content creator, his previous roles have spanned numerous industries including B2C and B2B home improvement, healthcare, and software-as-a-service (SaaS). An Indianapolis native and graduate of Indiana University, Palmer currently resides in Fishers, Ind.