Nonprofit Board Positions: Overview, Roles, and Responsibilities

  • By: Josh Palmer
  • April 28, 2022
Nonprofit board member positions
Reading Time: 3 minutes

From board chair to secretary, learn the various nonprofit board member positions (and duties for each) within a board of directors.

A nonprofit board of directors’ responsibilities include establishing the organization’s mission and vision, hiring and overseeing an executive director, and securing operating funds, among other roles. During the inception of an organization, different board member positions are set to establish authority and seniority within the group.

Nonprofit board members must work together to pull the necessary resources while making critical decisions that enhance the entity’s daily operations. This blog will discuss board of directors titles while explaining how to structure nonprofit board positions.

Basic Nonprofit Board Structure

Generally, most nonprofits operate with a defined board structure of at least three positions:

  • Chair of the board/president
  • Board secretary
  • Board treasurer

Besides the three ranking board positions noted above, nonprofit board structures commonly include a vice-chair and other at-large board members. Board appointments typically last two to five years, and should be staggered to ensure a mix of experienced and fresh board members.

Nonprofit Board Member Positions

The following list includes board member titles along with the associated responsibilities. 

Board Chair

Every nonprofit board of directors must have a committed leader to serve as board chair and keep the board effective and efficient. 

As the board chair, one plays an essential part in the organization, as highlighted in the roles below:

  • Hold board members accountable
  • Lead board meetings
  • Set objectives for the board
  • Create committees 
  • Serve as the board’s primary contact 

Vice Chair

While not a required role, many nonprofits also incorporate a vice chair, who can fill in for the chair when needed.

A vice chair’s duties include: 

  • Act as board chair when needed
  • Support the board chair in performing key duties
  • Perform special tasks as assigned by the chair

Board Secretary

The board secretary plays a vital role in ensuring the board operates smoothly. 

Although the roles of a board secretary may vary from one nonprofit to the other, there are some typical tasks that board secretaries handle, such as:

  • Schedule regular board meetings
  • Maintain accurate board records
  • Oversee membership lists
  • Ensure board member contact information is up-to-date
  • Orient new board members


Board treasurers require sufficient training and experience in finance and accounting, as they make critical decisions regarding investing and spending.

Some of the typical roles of a board treasurer include:

  • Reconciliation of bank and board’s financial statements
  • Filing taxes and adhering to any tax-related issues
  • Serve as the financial officer of the nonprofit
  • Work with the chief financial officer in preparing annual budget estimates
  • Conduct and review yearly financial audits
  • Report to the board about the financial health of the organization

Board Members

Large nonprofit organizations often round out their boards with other members who don’t hold leadership board titles. Nevertheless, they attend the board meetings and participate in making important decisions about the organization’s progress. In the future, board members can be considered for leadership positions.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

  • What's the Difference Between an Executive Director, President, and Chairman of the Board?

    The executive director refers to a staff person who oversees the day-to-day management of the organization. The president works closely with the executive director, and is generally responsible for the entity's short- and long-term financial goals. The nonprofit board's chair is responsible for leading the nonprofit board and evaluating the executive director.

  • What's the Difference Between a Director and an Officer?

    The titles ''director'' and ''officer” may seem similar, but each role undertakes some special duties. A director makes vital decisions for the organization, but doesn’t carry out day-to-day tasks. The board elects officers, such as president, treasurer, and secretary, to act on the nonprofit’s behalf. Officers can also be on the board or directors. 

  • Can You Combine Roles on the Board of Directors?

    It’s common for one officer to hold multiple roles in a small nonprofit. However, it mostly depends on state laws. For example, some states prohibit one individual from holding two or more positions. In any case, a good organizational practice is to consider spreading roles and responsibilities across different individuals.

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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.