All boards of directors govern, or guide, the work of a given nonprofit organization. This means that the members of the board are expected to weigh in on the big decisions that steer the organization. Most boards also have expectations related to fundraising and time commitments, too. Make sure you understand the role before you sign on.
A helpful question to ask is: “what is the focus of your board right now?”
There are usually two kinds of boards: working boards, and fundraising boards. This simply means that different organizations will want to emphasize different types of work from their board members. The goals, objectives, and deliverables described in your strategic plan will help you to determine what kind of board you ought to have. Don’t have a strategic plan? You likely need one – check out this post from the National Council of Nonprofits on the topic. In the meantime, read on.
Fundraising boards consist of members who are able to help the organization raise money. These people usually have a lot of money themselves, or are connected to other people, companies, and organizations that have access to funding. If your organization is no longer in its infancy and has little groundwork or capacity building work to do, a fundraising board might be a smart type of people to pursue. When it comes to getting your current roster of board members to feel confident about raising money, there’s a lot you can do. I like this post from Nonprofit Hub about getting your board up to speed and excited about fundraising.
A working board has members who do the work of the organization. These people staff events, write grants, and get their hands a bit dirtier with the nitty-gritty and day to day of the organization. They might not be able to raise the big bucks, but they volunteer a lot of their time, and add a lot of value when it comes to expanding the organization’s reach, networks, and relationships. Additionally, these boards might have people whose skill sets or professions match current needs and goals of the organization. So, if you’re planning a big fundraiser, and you have a board member who is a wedding planner, you might put this person to work planning your annual event. You can usually find working boards at smaller organizations where a little extra “people power” is often needed. This post from Nonprofit Know-How digs a little deeper into this topic.
Neither of these types is better than the other, but each type meets different goals.
And, of course, the makeup of your board can be (and likely is) a combination of the two. However, it does help to know what is most important to the organization when you’re recruiting new members or thinking about getting involved.
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