Why Does My Nonprofit Need a Board of Directors?
First off, it’s a legal requirement.
A nonprofit is a corporation and just like a for profit they exist independently of the founders. For example, the nonprofit board can hire and fire the CEO, and, even if your organization has only volunteers and no staff, it still must have a board.
Your board members are the enthusiastic, unpaid supporters of your mission. They’re the strategic leaders of your nonprofit and they have the responsibility of making sure your nonprofit organization follows nonprofit law and adheres to its mission.
You should recruit a board of directors before you incorporate. In many states, these people will be listed on the formation documents.
How Many Board Members Does My Nonprofit Need?
The state in which you incorporate will set the guidelines for the minimum number of board members. A minimum of three is typical.
The minimum number will be on your state’s incorporation documents and the size beyond the minimum depends on the organization’s needs.
Make a list of the tasks that need to be done and match your board members to them. Jobs and board members should be well matched so that everyone has enough to do, but no one is overwhelmed.
What Skills Should be Represented on My Nonprofit Board?
That depends on your nonprofit organization’s needs, but you should be thinking with a mix of skills including marketing, financial, tech, legal and social services.
That said, don’t forget about the value people outside of “professional services” can offer.
Parents or volunteers who love your work are excellent people to have on your board. They’re full of passion and commitment, both of which are just as important, if not more so, than just professional skills. They may also bring diverse experiences to the table, which can serve you in a variety of ways.
How Do I Choose My Nonprofit Board Members?
A formula for simple success = You + 2 friends.
Loyalty comes first.
You’ll need to find friends (we recommend just 2 when you’re starting out) who can sit on your board.
Here are 4 Simple Principles to Follow When Choosing Your Nonprofit Board Members:
- Close relationships – If possible, avoid “conflict of interest” concerns: No family members or business partners. Such relationships will have to be disclosed in your Application for Tax-Exempt Status, and can hold up the approval process.
- Loyalty and strong relationships trump power and prestige – You have enough challenges getting all of these steps executed without trying to find the “perfect” board member. Get the organization off the ground and then you’ll have an easier time recruiting your ideal pillars of the community.
- Let them off the hook – Tell anyone you’re recruiting for your “founding board” that the initial term is 90 days. You can create your initial board resolution (known as your “Unanimous consent resolution”) to allow for the term to automatically extend to one year if your founding board members decide to stay.
- Make it “Zero Brain Damage” – Give them a 1-page, bulleted list of responsibilities, and a “consent to serve” form. There shouldn’t be much work for them to do initially. You can download an example of this on our Resources page.
I hope this information serves you and helps you to start thinking about who you should invite to be a part of your amazing nonprofit organization.
Talk to you later.
Jacqui Long | Conjuror of Comms & Culture | Yippiekiyay Nonprofit Solutions