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Board Recruiting
11/17/2017 12:00 AM

These tips from veteran nonprofit CEO Greg Cantori are sure to improve your board recruiting efforts.

Greg Cantori, former executive director of the Maryland Association of Nonprofits (410-409-9573), has spent his career in top positions at nonprofit organizations and served on a number of boards, but when one organization where he was board chair began advertising for board members on Craigslist, he wasn’t expecting much.

“But we had great results,” Cantori said.

Here’s more:

“This was at Bike Maryland and we were challenged in getting good board members,” he said.

The organization needed board members with both a bicycling background and certain skill sets the board lacked, Cantori said, and by being clear on the time requirements and skill set the board wanted, the organization had good results on Craigslist.

First, the organization advertised for a CPA with a biking background and an attorney with the same interests, he said. “We recruited a couple board members this way,” he said, “and the quality of the board members was outstanding.”

Another recruiting tool Cantori has seen work well is offered through Businessvolunteers Maryland ( He said they act as a liaison between the nonprofit and business communities and are active in several states. “They tend to provide midlevel managers who are building their résumés and want to build experience in the community,” he said.

Working with Businessvolunteers has its advantages, because it offers a board training class concerning effective board governance. “What is cool is that the nonprofits apply for a board member by saying they need a certain skills set,” Cantori said. “Once they are trained, the volunteers receive a list of nonprofits looking for board members.”

Cantori said his organization found fantastic board members by using this service. “They come in pretrained, knowing they will have to give money, their time and serve with a duty of care, loyalty and obedience,” he said.

There are no misunderstandings about the board member’s job, he said. “They actually elevated the rest of the board’s behavior,” Cantori said. “They insisted our minutes and financials were in order before the meeting, and on making sure a quorum was in place at the meeting.”

No other nonprofits were using these techniques to recruit board members at the time, Cantori said, so his organization got a “scoop.”

“A lot of people spend a lot of time on Craigslist,” he said.

Tip: Advertise for board members under the “multiple” category on Craigslist. “One [listing] was for bicycles and the other was for volunteer opportunities or ‘positions’ under the jobs sections,” Cantori said. “We treated the board member job as a position.”

11/10/2017 12:00 AM

Nonprofit administrators should include clauses in their contracts and write policies that prevent board members from meeting outside regular board schedules.

From the nonprofit executive’s point of view, nothing destroys trust more than a board that meets outside of the regular board meeting schedule and purposely excludes you.

Prevent this from ever happening to you with two strategies:

  1. A clause in your contract of employment with the board that prevents the practice.
  2. A board policy that prevents the practice with this language: “The board may not meet without the executive director or, in the case of his/her excused absence, the executive vice president.”
11/3/2017 12:00 AM

Executive Director Jerry Murphy trains his board via short PowerPoint training sessions covering various aspects of the board member’s role and responsibilities.

Executive Director Jerry Murphy (Aurora, Ill., actively trains his board. He has to. His agency reports to numerous boards as an organization that serves seven townships in Illinois.

In all, Murphy’s agency reports to eight different boards, so he has 56 board members in total.

With that many board members and boards, if everyone is not on the same page regarding their responsibilities, the situation has potential for role-confusion problems.

Murphy’s organization, using the skills of its past business manager Marti Cross (, developed its own series of trainings to teach community volunteers the board member’s role and responsibilities. With a complex quasi-governmental governance structure, the training series also brought new board members up to speed on matters such as taxes, planning and fiduciary responsibilities. Here’s more:

The training series consists of seven general board training sessions to give board members an overview of their responsibilities, and one specific session to help board members understand how the tax money is distributed. The point is to give board members a fuller picture and better understanding of the job, Murphy said.

Former business manager Cross provided the trainings in ten-minute segments via PowerPoint, with each session covering a specific aspect of the board member’s role and responsibilities, Murphy said.

Trainings are focused on these areas:

  1. The board member’s role. This session was designed to teach board members the difference between the board’s job of setting policy and Murphy’s job of managing the organization on a daily basis. The session also covered the importance of meeting attendance and participation, guiding and supporting the executive director, serving the community and ensuring the legal and ethical integrity of the organization.
  2. Fiscal oversight. This training helped board members to develop more than a cursory understanding of the board member’s financial and governance responsibilities, such as the financial reports, but also their responsibility if funds are mishandled, Murphy said.
  3. Monitoring. This training was designed to ensure board members understand the need for reviewing reports and asking good questions. It was related to the oversight and monitoring function and use of tax dollars, and provided examples such as service usage reports and service outcome measures.
  4. Board’s role in strategic planning. Murphy’s organization was formed under the state’s community mental health act. The act requires organizations to have a three-year strategic plan in place. The planning process is described in the training, and requires an all-day session every three years, with the board approving the plan and subsequent updates, Murphy said.
  5. Understanding financial statements. This training went into more depth on understanding financial reports and was built around the concept that not all board members join a board with the same level of experience with balance sheets. It covered issues such as reading a report’s line items and how depreciation is calculated, for example. “This training gave board members the knowledge they need to do their job,” Murphy said.
  6. Board recruitment. This PowerPoint training session explained what to look for in potential trustees. It hit on areas such as a connection to mental health of some kind, seeking a diverse range of new board members from areas such as the judicial system, law enforcement, the school systems, those with a sincere interest in the organization’s work and family with members who use services, Murphy said.
  7. A final training specific to the organization and its business cycle. This training was designed to give board members a feel for what must happen at both the board and staff levels as part of the complex organization’s business cycle, Murphy said. It covered areas such as what reports are due, when the organization begins its fiscal year and the budget process, Murphy said.

“Board education really should be ongoing,” Murphy said. “This series gives us what we need to provide it, such as when we have had a period of board turnover.”

3/10/2017 12:00 AM

This resource from Board & Administrator helps board members assess their engagement level with the organization.

2/24/2017 12:00 AM

In Brian Foss and the Horatio Alger Association’s book, Governing Effective Nonprofits in the 21st Century, board members can find a wealth of practical information about serving on a board.

Below, you’ll find a terrific job description for a nonprofit board member.

A Sample Board Member’s Job Description for Any Nonprofit

  • Understand and support the mission, programs and services of the organization.
  • Accept the responsibilities of being a fiduciary of a corporation that exists for the public good using tax-exempt, tax-deductible funds.
  • Make a multiyear commitment to participate actively in governance meetings and programs.
  • Be among the first, most generous and consistent annual donors.
  • Invite new people to become involved in the organization’s work and to contribute financially.
  • Assist other governance leaders in building relationships that will help the organization fulfill its mission.
  • Be a steward of the public trust and a trustee of the organization’s mission and resources.
  • Keep the board’s work focused on governance issues, policy creation and setting strategic directions for the organization’s future in a transparent and ethical manner.
  • Keep the board focused on effectiveness in fulfilling the mission and programs, and creating an organization that is best-in-class.
  • As a fiduciary, ensure that the organization is diversely funded, approve the annual budget and monitor fiscal affairs, conduct an audit annually, have fiscal controls in place, review IRS Form 990, and plan for the financial future of the corporation.
  • Ensure the board has policies in place regarding board and staff conflicts of interest, self-dealing and transparency.
  • Understand how the organization raises its funds and approve all of the fundraising practices and external contracts for fundraising.
  • Leave management matters to the organization’s CEO and help the board and staff continuously differentiate the roles of governance and management.
  • Be an advocate and ally for the CEO, assuming such support is merited. Participate in the hiring, nurturing and evaluation of the CEO.
  • Keep the board focused on the organization’s mission.


Source: Brian Foss, Governing Effective Nonprofits in the 21st Century. Reprinted with permission.

1/27/2017 12:00 AM

Use the following exercise from The Board Doctor to assess your board’s understanding of its role.

Use the following exercise to determine how clearly your board understands its role. Identify those areas where the board lacks either knowledge or information, and make plans to find them the training they need. Remember: An untrained board is a disaster (for the CEO) waiting to happen.


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