Board composition is a crucial component of a successful nonprofit organization. The individuals who serve can enhance the charitable mission through their own efforts and contributions or severely deter progress, even diminish the reputation of the organization. In the early stages of a nonprofit, a great deal of care and study go into the selection of the initial members.

This Governing Board is legally accountable for the actions of the nonprofit organization, so individuals who serve must be aware and willing to shoulder the responsibility.

Their focus is to oversee compliance with public support regulations [the 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status], maintaining/ refining policies and procedures, as well as ensuring the plans and programs of the charitable mission are implemented and enhanced; while conducting the three legal duties: “duty of care”, “duty of loyalty”, and “duty of obedience”. Great care is taken in selecting the inaugural members of the Board and this same level of due diligence must be applied when determining subsequent generations of the Board.

Realistically, Board and Leadership selection is one of the most substantial decisions the nonprofit organization faces. The gravity of this responsibility becomes increasingly vital as the nonprofit advances so that staff, volunteers, even donors sense stability and continuity concerning the organization and mission. Consequently there may be numerous volunteers who, for whatever reason, desire a place at the Board Table, yet not every applicant may be ready or qualified to serve.

Qualifications would seem to be easy to determine, but are they? 

Qualified Board or Committee Members, or realistically anyone in a leadership capacity, should exhibit a methodical understanding of the charitable mission along with the dedication to uphold and enhance that purpose. At a point in the Charity’s tenure when its reputation and recognition attract numerous candidates, profiling and due diligence procedures can filter those who are more than willing to contribute their time and resources from those whose goals may not be as altruistic as one would expect. The most effective Boards are comprised of individuals who exhibit:

  • A strong enthusiasm for the organization and its mission. 
  • The ability to interact “productively” with others on the Board, Committees and Staff. 
  • No reservations in lending a hand with the more mundane “chores”. 
  • A willingness to support and/or assist in fund raising efforts. 
  • The insight to know when their work has been accomplished.

Ultimately, the most effective Board Candidate exhibits an understanding of the legal and philanthropic responsibilities of service and the commitment to undertake these obligations without reservation!