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Analyzing your role as a nonprofit board member: 4 questions

April 24, 2021
Here's a guide to analyzing your role as a nonprofit board member.

As a board member of a nonprofit organization, you hold an important role that goes beyond assessing the nonprofit’s financial performance or making financial projections alone. It’s your responsibility to keep an eye on the overall health of the nonprofit you serve. 

Doing so requires you to ask good questions, participate in board activities, and be aware of your responsibilities as a board member. This article will cover four questions to consider as you analyze your role as a nonprofit board member. Let’s begin.

1. Do you understand your role as a fiduciary and guardian of your nonprofit’s purpose?

Being a fiduciary and guardian essentially means having a good handle on the nonprofit’s overall financial picture. This includes not just the day-to-day operational budget, but a comprehensive understanding of revenue streams, gross expenses, and any financial burdens like open lines of credit or other loans. Consider if the nonprofit is transparent and accurate when presenting its financial picture.

If you have questions about the financial side of your nonprofit, it’s imperative that you ask them to gain the clarity you need. You might feel intimidated if it seems like you’re the only board member with questions, but remember, if you want more information, then it’s likely that other board members also do.

2. Do you understand your role as a fundraiser for the nonprofit? 

A nonprofit’s fundraising operations are a critical revenue stream that requires participation from many individuals: the executive director, paid staff, volunteers, and board members. Board members can help with fundraising by attending meetings, hosting events, making thank-you calls, sending thank-you letters, and strengthening connections with major donors.

As an important supporter of your nonprofit, your input on your organization’s fundraising strategy is valuable. Take the time to consider how your fundraising efforts could be improved, and bring it up during board meetings so that you can discuss it with your other board members. Brainstorm ways that you can support the fundraising team and how you can implement these strategies to drive greater impact.

3. Does the board function well overall?

Reflect on whether board members make decisions in a group, share information freely with one another, and otherwise foster a collaborative culture. Clear communication creates trust between board members and allows your board as a whole to work well together and advance the nonprofit’s purpose.

One way to help the board function is by assigning specific tasks to each board member. For example, one person may be in charge of organizing the board’s annual fundraising event, another might be the point of contact for the fundraising team, and another could handle setting up the agenda for board meetings. By having specific duties, you’ll ensure that the board won’t step on each other’s toes, and they’ll have a clear idea of what their responsibilities are.

4. Does the board work with various committees to work towards the nonprofit’s purpose? 

An excellent nonprofit board has a committee structure that supports the nonprofit’s activities. These committees can include finance, facilities, education or programs, and development and fundraising. Your board should work efficiently with your committees to fulfill your nonprofit’s purpose.

Ensure that there’s open communication between the committees on the board. That way, if any board members need guidance or information from a committee that oversees another part of the nonprofit, they can easily obtain it. Additionally, focus on fostering a collaborative culture, so that your committees understand that you are all working together.

A philosophy to adopt

Nonprofit board members play an important role in helping a nonprofit achieve its goals. To have the greatest impact, adopt the philosophy, “if you see something, say something.” This attitude requires an open and curious mind to understand how the nonprofit works and how the board can best support it.

Nonprofit board service can be gratifying if you are committed to the nonprofit’s purpose, get along with your colleagues on the board, and know how your contributions as a board support the nonprofit. Understanding your role on the board can help you ensure a board term that is beneficial to you and your nonprofit.

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