Finding volunteers with the right attributes is like winning the trifecta – difficult to do, but worth making the effort to find the right mix for the organization. Every nonprofit should create a Board member job description, with detailed explanations of expectations and service commitments.
Defining Board member responsibilities can vary as widely as there are nonprofit organizations, but it would be a disservice to leave out any of these qualifiers. They are the 3Ts (Time, Talent and Treasure) or the 3Ws (Work, Wisdom and Wealth).
Members of a nonprofit Board give their time(work) to help the organization. They can do this by:
- helping to shape the future direction of the charity.
- creating new, modifying and/or approving the planning documents that guide the organization (mission and values statements, guiding principles, and strategic, operating and fundraising plans).
- attending regular and special Board meetings.
- serving on committees and subcommittees.
- attending events.
- encouraging others to learn more about the nonprofit’s great work.
Accomplished people are asked to join nonprofit Boards because of their expertise in certain areas. The charity needs their talent(wisdom) to improve the charity’s decision-making. Here are examples:
- You are an estate planning attorney and the charity wants to start a gift planning program.
- You are an executive for a construction firm and the charity is considering building a new facility to serve a different demographic.
- You are a doctor using innovative approaches to treat diabetes and the charity’s mission is to find a cure for juvenile diabetes.
- You are a vice president at a major consulting firm and the charity is looking for new opportunities to grow its services while cutting costs.
Nonprofit leaders tend to be comfortable asking Board members to volunteer time and asking for advice, but sometimes are hesitant to ask their Board members to give their treasure(wealth) annually. Why? In some cases,
- the charity doesn’t have a case for support.
- there is no clear plan to solicit Board members.
- Board members were never told of any expectation to make annual gifts at a specific level.
- Board members were told giving is optional.
- the charity’s leadership is uncomfortable asking for gifts, fearful of being told no and/or terrified of Board members becoming upset and resigning.
When vetting Board candidates, it is important for the nominating committee to give candidates good reasons why Board membership has to be a reciprocal fit. It is the charity’s responsibility to make sure all new and returning Board members have clear expectations of their roles before joining or accepting additional terms. Each party should understand and agree to:
- the time commitment.
- how a candidate’s or a returning member’s expertise will be used to improve the organization.
- an annual gift of at least the minimum required for the duration of the term of service.
- an annual Board member review with the CEO and the Board president.
The vetting process goes both ways. Both sides are looking for a good fit. Open and honest dialog is important. Candidates for Board membership should have a clear understanding of the mission, and know all the requirements for Board service, including time(work), talent(wisdom) and treasure(wealth).
Over time, increasing the number of Board members who actively give of their time(work), talent(wisdom, and treasure(wealth) will change the Board from being good to being great!
UP NEXT: My experience with Board member reviews.
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Bridget this is such valuable information thanks for your insights. Your years of experience and commitment to serving in this area is apparent. Too love the bullets, quick reading is important to me.
As a newly appointed board member of a non-profit, this blog reinforced my understanding of this valuable and necessary commitment.
Thanks, and keep it up!
Thank you Coral!
Thank you Bridget! This is really valuable information! It is funny because Phil and I were just discussing organizing a 501c3 that he would use to share his basketball talents with the youth. Keep the post coming. It is encouraging to those of us who have it in us to give back. I will share this with Phil.
Thanks Linda. I will keep them coming.
Great article. Very important topic given the role that effective board members can play in the organization’s success. Communicating expectations is key. Thanks for sharing.
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Thank you Sheila.