A Guide To Nonprofit Board Roles And Responsibilities

All nonprofits have a board of directors or trustees. With the Complementary Model of Board Governance, we see the roles and responsibilities of staff being very different from the roles and responsibilities of the volunteer directors. This guide to nonprofit board roles and responsibilities explores staff roles vs board roles in an organization.

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What is the point of a nonprofit board?

The board is ultimately accountable for all aspects of the organization’s activities. The board meets its leadership responsibilities in these five ways:

  1. Approving the strategic direction of the organization
  2. Setting the governing policies of the organization
  3. Providing financial and legal stewardship
  4. Monitoring and evaluating organizational effectiveness
  5. Hiring and evaluating the CEO

The Board is also responsible for establishing governance policies and strategic planning and then you leave the operational, administrative, policies to the Executive Director otherwise known as the Chief Staff Officer who handles recruitment, hiring and firing, employee relations etc. The board only has one employee and that would be the ED/ CEO. So that’s where the division of duties comes in when it comes to the Complementary Model of Board Governance.

Roles of Staff Vs Board in Working Boards

In most smaller organizations, volunteer Directors want to get involved; they want to be part of the Association, so they volunteer to serve on the Board and what ends up happening is a lot of those boards are known as Working Boards.

What we mean by Working Boards is the President, the Vice-President or Chair, Vice-Chair, however, you call them depending on the organization, they roll up their sleeves and they’re doing all of the work.

The Treasurer is actually preparing the financial statements and keeping track of the books. The Secretary is the one who’s taking the minutes at meetings. So everybody is working very hard on the operations, the actual running of the not-for-profit organization, which is all well and good if you’re a small society.

For a smaller organization, there might not be a whole lot to do and maybe not a whole lot of members, but as that organization evolves and grows and the scope of work broadens, now it’s time to hire paid staff.

You would usually start by hiring your first staff person which might be an office manager, an admin person either part-time or full-time, all the way up to a full-fledged Executive Director or Registrar or CEO or General Manager or whatever you want to call them.

But best practices in North America would be a CEO or Executive Director so that it’s consistent with the corporate world because what they do is exactly the same.

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What are the different board member roles and responsibilities?

Role of CEO

The role of the CEO is to oversee the implementation of the board’s policies, as well as effective and efficient management of the organization following the policies and budget established by the board. They’re also responsible for:

  • Ensuring timely, accurate and concise information is provided to the board to fulfill its leadership responsibilities.
  • The CEO is accountable to the entire board of directors. Individual directors, do you provide direction to the CEO or to other staff.
  • Staff below the CEO level report to the CEO.

Role of chair

The chair is responsible for ensuring that meetings of the board are designed and conducted in a manner that facilitates the comprehensive and inclusive dialogue and effective decision-making required to fulfil the board’s responsibilities and the achievement of the organization’s mission.

Role of staff

Staff provide support to the board, its committees, and its task forces. Staff members are expected to implement the board’s policies and directions to the best of their abilities within the strategic plan and annual budget parameters and in a manner consistent with all board policies.

Need help increasing your nonprofit’s effectiveness?

An efficient board starts with the implementation of an effective governance model. 

AMC’s governance training helps nonprofit boards navigate governance and management to stay focused on their organization’s mission and visions. It includes valuable tools and clear guidance to address many not-for-profit organizations’ governance challenges.

Join NPO Academy’s Online Board Governance Training and implement the Complementary Model of Board Governance to build an effective partnership between the volunteer board, CEO and staff.

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