Nonprofit Board and Staff Responsibilities

Nonprofit Board and Staff Responsibilities

Finding the balance between the responsibilities of the nonprofit board and the staff is not an easy task. Either party may feel as though they have a greater responsibility to care for the organization, and thus causing a battle of power to come to the surface.

A good rule of thumb is that the board makes the decisions, and the staff carries them out. However, that’s not always the case. Let’s dig deeper.

First, let’s take a look at where the nonprofit is. It could be the case that your nonprofit doesn’t have a staff at this point. In that case, you’d need to find your balance of roles within the working board. That is all fine and well, but it is also important to consider how board member roles would change once a CEO and staff were hired, because the roles of each board member will undoubtedly change. The last thing you want is for a board member to take it personally that their duties are being taken away.

If your nonprofit already has a division of Board/CEO/Staff, that’s great. Let’s work to make a clear division of common responsibilities in order to be proactive and prevent potential conflict. We can take a look at three separate and important categories — legal, management, and financial oversight — that have divided roles between a governing board and staff members.

The Legal Realm

Getting directly to the point, the board has the duty to ensure that the nonprofit is in good legal standing. They are responsible for maintaining nonprofit registration requirements, adopting policies that protect the organization, and attending to any legal requirements. Should anything bad happen to the nonprofit, it is the directors who could be in trouble, not the staff. It is not a role to be taken lightly. (You can learn more about the legal duties of board members here). It is the board’s role to keep a close eye on the overall governance of the nonprofit.

Management Oversight

When it comes to management, the nonprofit staff definitely carries greater responsibilities. The board’s main role here is to hire a CEO. Once the qualified candidate is brought on, then the Board of Directors can take less of a role in the t day-to-day management of the organization. What the board can do extremely well in this area is offer mentorship to staff members. Depending on their specialty and background, they could be a fantastic resource to staff in fundraising, marketing, community building, etc. Together, board members and staff can develop core documents that guide the organization’s long-term vision: the nonprofit’s strategic plan, fundraising plan, and ongoing monitoring and evaluation.

Potential conflicts that should be prevented in this area include:

  • Micro-management of CEO/staff: the board must have faith in the CEO to manage the staff and day-to-day tasks.
  • Board fails to keep track of nonprofit activities: just because the staff is in charge of executing activities, that does not mean that the board should not be informed of what is going on.
  • Poor reporting by CEO: as tedious as the task might be, it is critical that the CEO provides any important updates to the board in a timely fashion.

Financial Sustainability

The board and CEO must share responsibility when it comes to the finances of the organization. Overall, it is the board’s responsibility to make sure the nonprofit is in good financial standing with the appropriate financial policies and reporting structures in place. The board must review all financial reports and be able to speak on the annual budget at any time.

The CEO, on the other hand, is responsible for preparing the annual budget and financial reports (along with finance-based staff) and manage the cash flow of the organization. Should they witness any financial shortages or potential errors, they must report as soon as possible.

Fundraising for the organization is a shared responsibility. While the CEO is the face of the organization and manages the fundraising plan (along with fundraising staff), the board must actively participate to advocate for the organization and bring in revenue. This entails not only a board member’s personal contributions, but also being a voice for the cause, attracting new donors, and maintaining relationships with existing donors.

All of this being said, each nonprofit is different. Depending on the size and operations of the nonprofit, board members may take on more or less responsibilities in the day-to-day management of the organization. We recommend that any nonprofit board and CEO spend time with a facilitator to promote good communication and reporting habits, actively do research on the matter (this is a great quick resource), and speak to a lawyer should you have any doubts about the legal ins and outs of the nonprofit (you can contact us at anytime, we’re happy to help).