How to Ensure Effective and Engaged Nonprofit Boards Part Two – Board Member Expectations and Requirements

Now that you have found potential board members, you will need to go over expectations and requirements with them.

First, you need to understand the role of a  board member. A board member provides governance and financial oversight.They do not run the day to day operations of the organization. They are also responsible for hiring and evaluating the Executive Director,approving the budget,and strategic planning. 

Knowing what is expected of board members will help you find effective and engaged individuals, and help candidates determine whether serving on your board is right for them.

If you don’t have a set of expectations and requirements for your board members,you should put one together right away. Here are a few of the standard ones to include.

Time Commitment
Approximately how much time is a board member supposed to commit to your organization?  It’s usually several hours a month. Be reasonable in determining this. Remember that board members are busy professionals who are volunteering their time.

Board members should be required to attend a majority of full board meetings and committee meetings. This could mean being available for meetings at least once a month. Board members are also expected to attend organizational events. If you have a gala, they need to attend that. Let them know how many other events they should attend.

Most boards have some sort of fundraising requirement,and I will write a separate post about the role of the board in fundraising. At the very least, board members should make a substantial contribution, based on their income level, to the organization.

Serving on a Committee
Many boards require their members to serve on a committee. Different committees can include governance, finance, development, program, and communications.

Serving on a committee is a great way for a board member to feel more engaged, while providing their expertise and skills to the organization.

You may want to consider having potential board members serve on a committee for a period of time, maybe three to six months, before inviting them to join the board. This way you can determine if the person would make a good board member and the individual can decide whether serving on your board will work for them. You don’t want to bring on a great board member who serves for a few months and then realizes they don’t have the time to commit to your organization.

Term Limits
Many boards elect members to three year terms. Some include an option for an additional three years, and then the person is expected to step off the board. This ensures a fresh board. This is something you will need to determine. Will the person be expected to serve for three years?  At the very least, they should make a commitment of one year.

Once you have determined your expectations and requirements, prepare a board member agreement for both the board member and board chair to sign. Here are some samples you can  use.

The following link includes a sample agreement you can download.

After a board member serves for a year, the board chair should look over the agreement to make sure the member is fulfilling his or her requirements. At the same time, the board member can fill out a self evaluation.  Here is a sample.  Individual Board Member Self-Evaluation

If the board member is not fulfilling his or her requirements,the board chair will need to take action, perhaps starting off by talking to the person about steps for improvement. If nothing changes, the board chair can ask the board member to step down. 

This should be done every year for each board member. Of course, in order for this to work, you need a board chair or other board leadership that is willing to make these annual evaluations.  It will take more time, but will help keep your board effective and engaged.

In part three, I will discuss Board Orientation and Training

For more information about boards, go to Board Source

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