Back to Insights

How to Build a Strong Board of Directors for Your Not-for-Profit Organization

December 12, 2023 4 Min Read Alerts, Article, Not-for-Profit
Kathleen O. Galaska, CPA
Kathleen O. Galaska, CPA Director, Audit & Accounting

Not-for-profit organizations with an effective board of directors have a greater impact, accomplish more, and bring a higher level of satisfaction to their stakeholders.

Here’s how your organization can build an effective board that not only carries out its legal obligations but also plays an important role in governance:

1. Seek Passionate Members Who Bring Diversity to the Not-for-profit’s Board Of Directors’ Positions

You may be wondering how to best create a board of directors for your not-for-profit. While there are no standard steps, per se, it is important that board members are passionate about the mission of the organization. One of the legal duties, the duty of loyalty, requires board members to ensure that the organization’s activities and transactions are advancing its mission and making decisions that are in the best interest of the organization. If a board member is passionate about the mission, this is a much easier duty to fulfill.

In addition to being passionate, it is critical to have not-for-profit board members with varying skills, especially those with specific expertise such as fundraising, legal, or accounting.

Throughout their term, board members should also be held responsible for setting and achieving goals that align with their strengths and skill sets.

Finally, along with varying skills, diversity among the board is necessary so that different perspectives and ideas are shared and implemented.

Learn more about specific board positions for not-for-profit organizations here.

2. Make Sure Board Members Understand Their Not-For-Profit Director Roles and Responsibilities

Duties and responsibilities for not-for-profit board members may vary but there should be minimum requirements for each, including:

  • Attending and meaningfully contributing to a specified number of meetings throughout the year.
  • Being knowledgeable about the not-for-profit organization’s bylaws and current operations.
  • Recognition of any conflicts of interest where it would be best to recuse themselves from the discussion around the related topic.
  • Review and sign a not-for-profit board member’s contract that states their roles and responsibilities.*
  • Formal and informal check-ins with each board member throughout their term to ensure everyone understands their responsibilities.

Learn more about board roles and responsibilities from the National Council of Not-for-Profits.

3. Develop a Strong Program for Not-For-Profit Board of Directors Training and Orientation

A training and orientation program allows a not-for-profit board of directors to obtain the information needed to build confidence and bring them closer to the organization’s mission. The program should include information regarding the mission and vision of the organization, the role of the board, and the responsibilities required from each member.

Orientation should also include details about the board including any subcommittees, frequency of meetings, and how decisions are made. Finally, training should include current budgets, information on funding sources, and strategic plans.

Educating the board members should be ongoing, not just at the initial onboarding, to continue to build engagement.

4. Host Efficient, Structured Board Meetings

To allow not-for-profit board members to fulfill their duty of meaningfully contributing to the meetings, make meetings concise, relevant, and useful:

  • Take effective minutes. Here are some tips for doing so.
  • Send out the agenda and related reports ahead of the meeting. The board can avoid any downtime in the meeting as directors review the reports. This will also allow board members to be more knowledgeable prior to the meeting.
  • Keep the meetings time-efficient. Meetings should be scheduled for the proper amount of time with important items early on the agenda to allow for the highest amount of concentration.
  • Create follow-up action items. Finally, the not-for-profit’s board meeting agenda and follow-up materials should specify who is responsible for certain tasks.

Here are more tips for creating effective board meetings from the Council of Not-for-Profits.

5. Continually Evaluate the Not-For-Profit’s Board Of Directors

Similar to how an organization evaluates its employees, the evaluation of the board of directors is important for determining the effectiveness of the board and its individual members. This evaluation may take place by the individual, peer-to-peer, by the organization’s board of directors, or by a third party.

Assessments and performance evaluations should include analysis of leadership, procedures, dynamics, and relationships. Explore a full list of items to review in your not-for-profit’s board of directors assessment.

Strategic Advisement on Creating an Effective Board of Directors for Your Not-for-Profit from Kreischer Miller

An effective board can significantly improve the impact a not-for-profit organization has on its stakeholders.

However, developing a diverse board of directors for your not-for-profit organization that understands its roles and responsibilities, is properly trained, conducts effective meetings, and is appropriately evaluated is a difficult task.

If you have any questions or would like to discuss how to create board members who fulfill their ideal roles and duties, please reach out to  our Not-For-Profit Industry Group.

Contact the Author

Kathleen O. Galaska, CPA

Kathleen O. Galaska, CPA

Director, Audit & Accounting

Not-for-Profit Specialist, Owner Operated Private Companies Specialist, Private Equity-Backed Companies Specialist

Contact Us

We invite you to connect with us to discuss your needs and learn more about the Kreischer Miller difference.
Contact Us
You are using an unsupported version of Internet Explorer. To ensure security, performance, and full functionality, please upgrade to an up-to-date browser.