By Amy Liefer, President, Prosper Advising, Inc.

Next time you have a free minute, Google the phrase “roles of nonprofit boards.” There are hundreds of articles you can read all about roles, responsibilities, board basics, etc. And as far spread as the resources are, so is the knowledge shared. Some suggest board members serve in governing roles. Others advocate board members be active volunteers. Some say every board should have a financial giving requirement; whiles others say it’s unfair and detrimental to do so.  The truth is nonprofit organizations vary in size, needs, and mission. So why wouldn’t the role of board members vary, as well?

The board of directors is the backbone to most nonprofit organizations. It’s where leadership begins, examples are set, and strategies are planned. When you bring major donors and volunteers into the organization, they will look to your board for cues on how to get involved. And so it’s from there that your organization should base the role of your board members.

Board members are leaders representing your organization. If you can’t ask them to give money, how can you expect others in the community to give? If you can’t ask your board members to chair your capital campaign, serve on your pipeline committee, fill a team (or two!) at the golf tournament, or sponsor your dinner gala, then why would anyone else want to do these things?

Boards cannot be our only allies – we can’t overload them with every job every time. But we should be able to count on them to help in some way throughout the year and most importantly, we should expect them to open doors to find other people who will help. Base your board roles on your organizational needs. Prioritize needs and draft job descriptions for each board position. This ensures everyone is on the same page with the same expectations from the beginning.

The people on your board are there for a reason – your mission personally affects them or a loved one, they represent a company which wants to get involved, they think your cause is worthwhile. They want to be there. If you don’t engage them – give them action steps, call on them for help – they will start to feel like you don’t really need them and they will find an organization that does. Engagement is key. Don’t let your board meetings become report sessions. Make sure there are tangible actions items that can be delegated to members.

Above all else, you need to set expectations for board members. There is no concrete list that every organization must use. You have to determine what best fits your organization’s current needs and what will allow you to achieve your goals. But the expectations need to be put down on paper and shared with every person who joins your board.

Are you doing something extraordinary with your board or directors? Tell me about it below! Need help right sizing your board? Contact me and see how Prosper Advising can help you.