Nonprofit Insurance Program

5 Steps to Holding Board Members Accountable

By Alexa Connelly
August 06, 2013

Although they are usually volunteers, board members of a nonprofit organization, still have certain duties and responsibilities.  It is important to clarify those duties and responsibilities and to hold the board members accountable for the protection and credibility of the nonprofit.

Although they are serving on a nonprofit board, for all intents and purposes, the role is the same as for profit organizations. Holding board members accountable becomes easier if it follows along the lines of their responsibilities.

  1. While every board has its own way of working, boards are generally responsible for setting guiding policies. The board refers to its by-laws for guidance as to what it can and cannot do.  The more specific the document, the easier it becomes to hold board members accountable for working outside its parameters.
  2. Board of directors of a nonprofit has a fiduciary oversight of and responsibility for the income and expenses of the nonprofit.  There should be clear oversight of the process of accounting for income and spending with redundant checks and balances in place.
  3. All nonprofits have reporting requirements and are responsible for legal oversight. An advisory committee with some accounting and legal expertise can help keep this process in order.
  4. Nonprofit boards have an obligation to think long-term to ensure the financial sustainability of the nonprofit.  Fundraising, donations and community support are the lifeblood of a nonprofit. It is the board’s responsibility to oversee these elements.  Having a close alignment between the nonprofit’s purpose and the board member’s assigned role here is important. Again it is easier to maintain accountability when roles are clearly defined.
  5. Maintaining a positive public perception is another essential board role. Board members are the nonprofits’ public persona in the community. Board of Directors non profit should showcase that the nonprofit is operating under the highest level of accounting and legal standards.  It should be clear that when operating under the umbrella of their position board members are held to the highest standard of conduct and will be accountable for failure to uphold these standards.

In summary, it is critical that agency leaders are clear about the mission of their nonprofits when recruiting board members. Board members must have a clear understanding of their duties and responsibilities.  When the expectations are aligned, the board members will be able to successfully fulfill the mission of the nonprofit and feel good about their achievements.

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