Nonprofit Board Management

 For nonprofit organizations to function properly, it’s critical to focus on the operation of board committees and nonprofit board management. 

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What is Nonprofit Board Management?

Nonprofit board management is the management of individual board members who are appointed or elected to act as fiduciaries who steer the nonprofit organization toward sound ethical, legal, and efficient governance and financial management policies while also making sure the nonprofit organization has the right resources to fulfill its mission. 

Why is Nonprofit Board Management Important?

If you want your nonprofit organization to run effectively, then you must have sound nonprofit board management practices. There are several reasons why nonprofit board management to so important. These include: 

  • Execute the Right Mission: It is the responsibility of a nonprofit board to make sure the organization is able to execute its mission. If there is no nonprofit board, then the nonprofit organization will have a difficult time making decisions.

    The individual board members will work together to make sure the nonprofit organization for fulfills its goals. Nonprofit board management is important for getting the board members the tools they need to help the nonprofit organization achieve its mission.

  • Financial Management: Nonprofit boards are also important from a financial management perspective. It is not unusual for nonprofit boards to have endowments in the millions of dollars. For example, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has an endowment greater than $50 billion.

    It is critical to make sure this money is managed appropriately, or the nonprofit organization won’t have the resources it requires to complete its mission. Nonprofit board management is important for making sure these resources are managed properly. 

  • Employee Management: In addition, many nonprofit organizations employ thousands of people. It can be a challenge to make sure the managers and employees have the resources they need. Nonprofit board management is important for acquiring equipment, hiring employees, and appointing the right manager.

    When individual employees are put in the right positions to succeed, the nonprofit organization has an easier time fulfilling its goals.

  • Legal Requirements: Even if nonprofit organizations do not have a sizable endowment, every 501 (c) (3) organization has to have a governing board. This board has to include at least three directors.

    If a nonprofit organization does not have an appropriate governing board, then they leave themselves vulnerable to sanctions by the IRS. There are additional local and state laws that typically require a nonprofit organization to be governed by a board. That way, charitable donations are used correctly. 

These are just a few of the many reasons why nonprofit board management is important. If you want your organization to be successful, you need to appoint the right people to the board. That way, you know your resources are managed appropriately and you minimize your regulatory risk. 

Who Makes Up the Board of a Nonprofit?

Every nonprofit organization is different; however, the people who are included in the board are usually the same. In general, there are three major officers. These include:

  • The President: The president, who can go by different names on different boards, is responsible for leading the board in the right direction.
  • The Secretary: Most boards also have a secretary. The secretary is responsible for keeping track of what happens at the meetings so people remember what took place and so that people who are not present at the meeting can stay up-to-date. 
  • The Treasurer: The treasurer is responsible for managing the finances of the organization. They keep track of the expenses, donations, and make sure the resources are being used appropriately. 

Beyond this, boards are comprised of additional director positions as well. Many boards also have a certain number of individual board members who participate in the management of the organization.

In some cases, nonprofit organizations may have boards that only have a few people. In other situations, nonprofits may have a board that includes dozens of people. As a nonprofit organization continues to grow, its board usually increases in size as well. 

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What Are the Roles and Responsibilities of Nonprofit Board Members?

As you fill in the individual positions on your board, it is important to understand the roles and responsibilities of each individual board member. A few examples of positions a board may have include: 

The Board Chair

The chair of a nonprofit board is responsible for motivating other members to actively participate in meetings. They also encourage people to come to meetings so their voices can be heard.

The board chair is also responsible for ensuring that all actions undertaken by the nonprofit organization fall under the goals, bylaws, and mission of the organization. Furthermore, the chair of a nonprofit board usually serves as a primary point of contact for the executives and staff members of the organization. 

The Executive Director

While the board chair is responsible for making strategic organizations, the executive director is responsible for managing the operational side of the nonprofit organization. For example, the executive director is responsible for handling the day-to-day initiatives of the nonprofit group.

They tend to work directly with volunteers and employees to make sure the charitable mission is fulfilled. Even though there is some overlap between the board chair and the executive director, these are different positions. 

Directors and Officers

Directors and officers are usually elected or appointed by the board of directors by other people in the organization. Directors and officers are responsible for carrying out the day-to-day business operations within the scope of the authority delegated to them.

It’s important to clearly specify the roles and responsibilities of each individual officer so they know what they are doing. Usually, the bylaws of the nonprofit organization are responsible for defining the individual roles of directors and officers.

In some cases, these are volunteer positions; however, there are other situations where they may be paid staff members. 

Board Member

Individual board members may have certain responsibilities as well. In some cases, they are appointed to the board to represent the individual departments they come from. They are still fiduciaries who are responsible for making sure their voices are heard. They need to make sure the organization is operating under its bylaws and that the resources are being used appropriately. They’re usually called upon to vote when certain issues are up for debate. 

Secretary

The secretary of the board is responsible for managing the individual communications of the organization. They need to keep track of important board meeting dates and notify individual members when a meeting is coming up. The secretary is also responsible for putting together meeting agendas, making sure that people know what is going to be discussed.

The secretary is also responsible for tracking the minutes of the meeting, making sure people are filled in if they are unable to attend. The secretary is usually required to attend all board meetings. 

Administrative and Support Staff

The exact roles and responsibilities of the administrative and support staff of a nonprofit board can vary; however, they are usually responsible for handling the logistics of the meeting. For example, they are responsible for making sure all board members have the materials they need to prepare for the meeting.

They are also responsible for taking attendance at the board meeting. If individual members have questions or concerns, the administrative and support staff is responsible for answering them. 

What is a Nonprofit Board Committee?

A nonprofit board committee is usually comprised of individuals and positions of leadership in the organization. The committee’s job is to actively work toward specific goals.

In some cases, there is an overarching nonprofit board committee that is responsible for making sure the organization is working toward achieving its mission. In other cases, there may be subcommittees that are formed from this committee. 

Subcommittees are often created to tackle individual problems the nonprofit organization is trying to address. For example, there may be a subcommittee created to handle a specific project a nonprofit organization is trying to finish.

The nonprofit board committee must ensure the resources are being used appropriately, that individual members have the equipment and information they need, and that the nonprofit organization is effectively working toward its goals. 

What Happens at a Nonprofit Board Meeting?

Every nonprofit board meeting is slightly different; however, there are usually a few steps that take place at each meeting. These include: 

Agenda

Usually, the first thing that happens at a nonprofit board meeting is that everyone is welcome to. Typically, this is handled by the board chair. The chair will thank everyone for coming, and bring the meeting to order. After this, the board chair will go through the agenda.

This is important for making sure everyone is on the same page. If something is missing from the agenda, this is an opportunity for that individual to speak up. If there are other questions or concerns about the agenda, they will be addressed before the meeting gets started. 

Meeting Minutes

The next thing that takes place is that the minutes from the prior meeting are approved. These meeting minutes are usually presented by the secretary, who is responsible for creating them.

This is also an important refresher so that people understand what took place at the last meeting. This is particularly important for those who were unable to attend. 

Voting and Approvals

After this, there might be several rounds of voting at approval. For example, the executive director might present a report on the current status of the organization. Then, there are certain items that could be put to a vote so that they can either be approved or denied.

There might also be a report from the finance committee so that everyone understands how the organization is doing financially. A few examples of items that might be voted on include:

  • There might be new members who are appointed to the board.
  • There could be an upcoming project on the table that requires funding.
  • The organization might need to purchase new equipment.
  • The organization might be trying to hire new people, which also requires the distribution of resources. 

As the voting and approval processes take place, the secretary is responsible for taking note of what is approved and what is not.

Committee Meetings

Once this process is finished, the board might conduct individual committee meetings. If there are multiple subcommittees, this is when discussions will take place.

The board chair is responsible for establishing time limits to discuss these topics. Then, the board is going to come together and proceed with the agenda. A few examples of common committees that might be present on a nonprofit board include:

  • A finance committee manages the individual resources of the nonprofit organization.
  • A personnel committee manages employees, managers, and volunteers.
  • A facilities committee might manage rentals and purchase real estate. This committee might also be responsible for managing individual pieces of equipment.
  • A nominating board controls positions of leadership.
  • A membership board reaches out to significant supporters of the organization to make sure they are still willing to support the mission of the nonprofit.
  • A fund development committee controls fundraising and revenue growth.
  • A program committee plans future events and activities.

Topics for Deliberation 

Finally, there might be certain topics that have to be deliberated upon. It is important for the board chair to make sure everyone talks in turn. Otherwise, people will end up talking over each other, which will make it difficult to understand what is happening. Everyone needs to listen carefully to both sides of the issue before they make a decision. Then, these issues might be put to a vote during the next meeting. 

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How Can Nonprofit Boards Be More Effective?

There are several important tips that nonprofit organizations need to follow if they want their boards to operate more effectively. A few important tips when it comes to nonprofit board management include:

 

  • Send board materials early. It is important to send out the agenda as early as possible. The more time people have to review the agenda, the more time they have to prepare. Make sure the secretary has all the resources they need to put together an effective agenda well in advance of the meeting.
  • Respect participants’ time. The nonprofit board has to be respectful of everyone’s time. The board meeting needs to start and end on time. If people understand the meeting is going to end on time, they will have an easier time staying on task.
  • Clearly specify the roles and responsibilities of each individual board member. If board members understand what they are supposed to be doing, they will have an easier time accomplishing their goals. If there is some overlap between board members, make sure to delegate responsibility appropriately. If people do not understand their responsibilities, tasks could fall through the cracks, leading to an inefficient board.
  • Share resources and provide guidance. Everyone has to understand where they should go if they have questions or concerns. If board members know where to go for help, they will have an easier time accomplishing their tasks.
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What is a Conflict of Interest for a Nonprofit Board?

A conflict of interest for a nonprofit board takes place when the board director or an individual board member is unable to act as an impartial and objective fiduciary for the organization.

For example, a board member may have an interest in another party that could prevent them from acting in the best interests of the nonprofit; sometimes called duality of interest, there are several examples of conflicts of interest that could take place on a nonprofit board. These include personal, professional, and volunteer positions that could interfere with their abilities to act appropriately.

It is important for nonprofit organizations to have a clearly stated conflict of interest policy. Its policy should require anyone who believes they have a conflict of interest to disclose the conflict. Any director who has a conflict of interest should abstain from discussing or voting on the matter in which they have a conflict of interest.

Federal laws require nonprofit organizations to have a conflict of interest policy. There are also some local and state policies that also require organizations to have individual requirements related to conflict of interest.

When an organization is drafting a conflict of interest policy, there are several important parts that have to be included. These include: 

  • The purpose of the conflict of interest policy must be clearly stated. Why is this policy in place, and why is it important to the organization as a whole?
  • Clearly state important definitions. What is a conflict of interest? What are a few examples of conflicts of interest that could take place?
  • Specify appropriate procedures. If someone believes they have a conflict of interest, what do they need to do? What happens next
  • Punishments for violations. For example, if someone does not disclose a conflict of interest they have, the penalties must clearly be specified. As an example, that individual might be removed from the board.

     

Nonprofit organizations should review their conflict of interest policy regularly. Then, the board has to vote on the policy to include it in their bylaws. This is important for making sure the nonprofit organization is able to operate effectively. If members do not disclose conflicts of interest, the future of a nonprofit organization could be in jeopardy.

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How Do I Join a Nonprofit Board?

In order to become a nonprofit board member, there are several steps people have to follow. These include:

  • Identify an organization in which they are interested. It is important for people to be interested in the mission of the nonprofit organization so they have the motivation to work hard on behalf of that entity.
  • Contact the organization. That way, the organization knows they are interested in serving.
  • Exchange information with the board. That way, people understand who is on the board, what the organization does, and why the mission is important. This also provides the nonprofit organization with the opportunity to get to know the individual better.
  • After this, the nonprofit organization will clearly specify the expectations that come with serving on the board. Individuals who are interested in serving on a nonprofit board need to understand that this is a significant time commitment. They should not commit to serving on the board unless they can uphold the responsibilities of the position.

     

Finally, every nonprofit organization has a slightly different way of evaluating individuals who are interested in serving on the board. For example, there might be a vote that has to take place before someone can sit on the board.

Individuals who want to be on the board might have to serve in a volunteer capacity first. This is why it is important to review the bylaws of the nonprofit organization. They will specify the procedures in place for someone serving on the board. Sometimes, individuals with experience in a certain area will be prioritized for board positions.

What is Nonprofit Board Management Software?

Today, it is important for nonprofit organizations to take advantage of every resource at their disposal. This includes nonprofit board management software. Nonprofit board management software creates streamlined operations, saves time, and improves nonprofit organization governance. The end result is improved collaboration before, during, and after meetings. This makes it much easier for nonprofit board members to work together while also automating a lot of the tasks that used to be done by hand. 

Nonprofit board management software also goes by several other names, including board management platforms, board management systems, and board portals.

Similar to other software programs, there are multiple types of nonprofit board management software programs available. Therefore, it is important for nonprofit organizations to think carefully about the type of program that is going to work best for them.

There are several key benefits that nonprofit board management software programs can provide, including: 


Create a Single Source of Truth Instead of Multiple Conflicting Channels

One of the biggest benefits created by a nonprofit board management software program is that there is going to be a single source of truth. Nonprofit organizations need to manage huge volumes of information effectively. Many board members require this information regularly to do their jobs.

These factors can create many efficiencies in the organization if nonprofit board members do not know where to go for their resources. With access to a nonprofit board management software program, everything is going to be in one place. 

For example, many people are familiar with long email chains that contain different versions of files. It can be difficult for nonprofit board members to keep up with version control and understand which file is the most up-to-date.

With access to a nonprofit board management software that’s updated in real time, this information and channel overload can be effectively solved. Board members know where they need to go to get the documents they need, including resources, reports, bylaws, and archived minutes for example.

This makes it much easier for board members to execute strategy and increase productivity, rather than spend time and effort on clerical work. 


Improved Security for the Nonprofit Organization

Next, a comprehensive nonprofit board management software program creates new layers of security. For example, this is a program that can be used to implement two-factor authentication. This means that individuals need a second set of login credentials, such as a fingerprint, Social Security number, birthday, or access code to pair with their username and password before they gain access.

This type of security measure is important because there are increasing numbers of criminals seek to take advantage of large organizations, including nonprofit organizations.

In addition, nonprofit board management software can also provide new access control features. That way, individuals do not have access to any files they do not need to do their jobs. This is critical for limiting the exposure of one single member to any potential hacker. 

Finally, nonprofit board management software also provides user management features. For example, officers may be able to add and remove users as they are added and removed from the organization. This is another layer of control that increases the security of nonprofit organizations. 


Faster Onboarding for New Board Members

As boards continue their governance mission, new board members join to replace those who have left, making new board member onboarding becomes an increasingly important issue. With access to nonprofit board management software, the board can streamline the onboarding process and reduce the amount of time required to get new board members up to speed. 

For example, nonprofit board management software programs can be used to save training modules that new members can work through at their own pace. Then, it may be possible to use nonprofit board management to implement lessons and lectures. Then, the nonprofit board management software can expedite processes including creating new credentials, designating access, and creating email accounts that are used to contact new members. All of this is important for making sure the nonprofit board operates efficiently. 


Streamline Remote Work and Virtual Work Settings

Finally, with more people working from home than ever before, a non-profit board management software program can also be used to streamline remote work and virtual work settings.

Unfortunately, like all organizations, nonprofits have also been significantly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. There are more people working from home before, and some people may continue to work from home for the foreseeable future. It can be difficult to keep in touch with one another when they are no longer working down the hall from each other.

Common features of board management software programs include:

With access to a comprehensive nonprofit board management software program, it is possible to streamline communications so that everyone can keep in touch with each other. Even if there are multiple people working on the same project, a nonprofit board management software program can be used to keep track of deliverables as they are completed.

Then, individuals will have an easier time reviewing the work of their colleagues and reaching out to people with questions and concerns. All of this is important for making sure all nonprofit organizations are still able to operate effectively even during remote work situations. Furthermore, this could be something that is here to stay. 

Find the Right Nonprofit Board Management Software Program

Ultimately, it is important for all organizations to make sure they find the right nonprofit board management software program. Because many nonprofit board members have multiple time commitments, it is important for directors and officers to create an engaging board using advanced programs that can streamline operations.

Every member of the board needs to be able to stay in touch with one another even if they are working remotely for the organization to work effectively. With the right software program in place, nonprofit boards can save a lot of time and money while making sure board members understand their roles and responsibilities clearly.

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"Across every metric, OnBoard has proven the most user friendly and comprehensive board meeting software."

— Phoebe Friends, senior vice president of finance

"Across every metric, OnBoard has proven the most user friendly and comprehensive board meeting software."

— Phoebe Friends, senior vice president of finance

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