Building a Board from Scratch
Building a board from scratch
Selecting your very first board is a crucial task, and should be approached with much consideration and thoughtfulness. If I’ve said it once, I’ve said this several times: the board’s first responsibility is to carry out the mission of the organization. Look at it this way, the success of the organization is in the hands of the members of the board.
Now it is perfectly okay to stack the board with friends, family, and close acquaintances, if you don’t want
what’s best for the organization. Impartial objectiveness is going to be the growing factor for any new nonprofit. Take a board with varying ideas and backgrounds, you have open-ended possibilities. However, if you fill the board with all like-minded people you’ll have the same old thing time and time again. You’ll run the risk of a board that will not be able to effectively perform, thus ruining the organizations chance for success. The board is ultimately responsible for the fiduciary and civic health of the organization. Choose wisely!
I highly advise that you develop a process for recruiting board members. For example, use the interview to express the organization’s expectation of the board members. Share that the board expects members to attend meetings, contribute their ideas, and passionately support the nonprofit’s mission. Here’s where you’ll want to repeat as often as possible the organization’s mission statement. If you have written literature, please share it with potential board members.
Make sure you mix up the talent on your board. It is very important to have a financial person who can read the financial statements. It doesn’t hurt to recruit a lawyer and a public relations person just for their expertise. You’ll need to be sure to have paid contractors to perform the service work. Using a board member for these tasks is a definite conflict of interest, and would pose huge legal ramification since a nonprofit board is a group of volunteers without compensation of any kind.
Now, we’ve talked about the fact that the board’s role is to act on behalf of the public for this publicly driven organization by carrying out the mission and being fiscally responsible. The way to ensure that the board completes this mandate successfully is by making sure each member is aware of their responsibilities and duties. This is written out in the organization’s bylaws. The bylaws govern the board members who govern the executive director and staff.
Nonprofit Kit for Dummies by Stan Hutton and Frances Phillips states the following:
Keep in mind that a board’s responsibilities are legal responsibilities. BoardSource, a nonprofit organization providing information and services for nonprofit boards, outlines three duties for boards: care, loyalty, and obedience.
The duty of care refers to the responsibility to be a prudent board member. In other words, board members must pay attention to what’s going on and make decisions based on good information.
The duty of loyalty means that a board member must put the organization’s welfare above other interests when making decisions.
The duty of obedience requires that board members act in accordance with the nonprofit’s mission and goals.