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What Is Considered a Board Member?

Considered a Board Member

A board member is a volunteer who contributes time and expertise to the governance of a charitable nonprofit organization. The role of the non-profit board has changed over the years, and many organizations are finding that it is necessary to recruit a diverse group of people to help serve their mission. Fortunately, educational programs for new and prospective board member are abundant, with many allowing board candidates to participate in virtual or in-person peer-to-peer training sessions.

In a publicly held company, a board of directors is elected to represent the owners of a business—the shareholders/stockholders—and is legally obligated to do so in accordance with a set of fiduciary responsibilities. The board establishes policies and advises management on strategy, dividends, executive compensation, and major issues such as resource management and social responsibility. The board must also be free from conflicts of interest and keep corporate information confidential.

Corporate boards are made up of both inside and outside directors, with the latter generally being defined as individuals who are not current or past employees of the corporation. However, independent directors must meet a higher standard. To qualify as an independent director, a person must not have any material relationships with the company, which may include close relatives and significant financial dealings.

What Is Considered a Board Member?

Some of the most significant changes in the roles and responsibilities of non-profit boards are related to how they raise money and recruit and retain volunteers. For example, many organizations are finding that it is no longer sufficient to seek out wealthy friends who have a connection to the mission of the organization. Rather, a more important factor is to focus on connecting with those the nonprofit serves and the specific needs of that community.

The board must take steps to ensure that it has a solid foundation of knowledge and skills in key areas, such as fundraising, marketing, financial reporting, legal issues, commercial development and funding. In addition, it is often the role of the board to serve as an ambassador and advocate for the organization in the community.

A good board member is a highly effective communicator who has the ability to lead discussion and help everyone on the board understand the issues at hand. The board must also be able to effectively engage with the president and other senior staff to make decisions that are in the best interests of the organization. Lastly, the board must be able to evaluate its own performance. Ideally, the board will set term limits that are fair and reasonable and provide regular feedback to the president. This will allow the board to develop and implement a plan to improve performance. If the board is not performing well, it may need to change leadership or structure. This can be difficult to do, but it is a vital part of maintaining the health of the organization. A well-performing board of trustees can have an immense impact on a charitable organization’s reputation, culture, strategic focus, effectiveness and financial sustainability.

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