10 Basic Responsibilities of Nonprofit Boards

There’s so much confusion about the appropriate job of a nonprofit board member.

Lots of boards ask me to help them understand what their work really is.  I often refer to a list that BoardSource created a few years ago that has become a reference in our sector.

Here’s the list.  I’ll be discussing these responsibilities in my upcoming blog posts. There’s lots to talk about here! What do they really mean? How do you implement them?

Ten Basic Responsibilities of Nonprofit Boards  From BoardSource

  1. Determine the organization’s mission and purpose. It is the board’s responsibility to create and review a statement of mission and purpose that articulates the organization’s goals, means, and primary constituents served.
  2. Select the chief executive. Boards must reach consensus on the chief executive’s responsibilities and undertake a careful search to find the most qualified individual for the position.
  3. Provide proper financial oversight. The board must assist in developing the annual budget and ensuring that proper financial controls are in place.
  4. Ensure adequate resources. One of the board’s foremost responsibilities is to provide adequate resources for the organization to fulfill its mission.
  5. Ensure legal and ethical integrity and maintain accountability. The board is ultimately responsible for ensuring adherence to legal standards and ethical norms.
  6. Ensure effective organizational planning. Boards must actively participate in an overall planning process and assist in implementing and monitoring the plan’s goals.
  7. Recruit and orient new board members and assess board performance. All boards have a responsibility to articulate prerequisites for candidates, orient new members, and periodically and comprehensively evaluate its own performance.
  8. Enhance the organization’s public standing. The board should clearly articulate the organization’s mission, accomplishments, and goals to the public and garner support from the community.
  9. Determine, monitor, and strengthen the organization’s programs and services. The board’s responsibility is to determine which programs are consistent with the organization’s mission and to monitor their effectiveness.
  10. Support the chief executive and assess his or her performance. The board should ensure that the chief executive has the moral and professional support he or she needs to further the goals of the organization.

Used with permission from Ten Basic Responsibilities of Nonprofit Boards, Second Edition by Richard T. Ingram, a publication of BoardSource. For more information about BoardSource, call 800-883-6262 or visit www.boardsource.org. BoardSource © 2008. Content may not be reproduced or used for any purpose other than that which is specifically requested without written permission from BoardSource.