As mentioned in my previous article, I want to take a moment this holiday season to highlight the various ways to engage with and responsibilities of serving the community and nonprofit sector. Trusted business advisors offer an important perspective. Many opportunities exist whether board, committee, or volunteer service.
Self-awareness represents an important step for those interested in partnering with an organization. The full board as well as individual members have and must fully understand their role and responsibilities. Given this importance as well as engagement and aligning passion for the mission, I always strongly encourage interested colleagues to serve first on a committee or volunteer. Plenty of available resources can help (see bottom of this blog for good places to start)!
As my career progressed, I turned increasingly to serving the community and joined several nonprofit boards and committees. What an invigorating experience to help support a mission and organization using creative ways to approach problems! Experts from various professions unite and give of their time, talent, and treasure to improve lives and communities. While we as board members passionately serve the community, realizing and understanding the fundamental legal duties of each board member represents a critical concept. According to BoardSource, these include:
- Duty of care - Each board member has a legal responsibility to participate actively in making decisions on behalf of the organization and to exercise his or her best judgment while doing so.
- Duty of loyalty - Each board member must put the interests of the organization before their personal and professional interests when acting on behalf of the organization in a decision-making capacity. The organization’s needs come first.
- Duty of obedience - Board members bear the legal responsibility of ensuring that the organization complies with the applicable federal, state, and local laws and adheres to its mission.
Furthermore, BoardSource defines ten basic responsibilities of nonprofit boards while also clarifying and distinguishing the board’s responsibilities from those of the chief executive and senior staff. With a strategic role rather than operational, only one employee technically reports to the board.
Participating on a committee or engaging as a volunteer allows for professional development and determining a proper fit for board service. Both the organization and volunteer have a chance to get to know each other. As I receive invitations to serve on boards and committees, I self-assess my linkage, ability, and interest. Do I have a passion for the mission and commitment to the organization? Can I actively remain engaged? On which committee can I add value for the organization and its constituents?
Business advisors lead an important role with nonprofits whether executive leadership, governance and fiscal responsibility, business development and relations, advocacy and communications, programs, or business operations on staff. Organizations such as BoardSource, The Bridgespan Group, and the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) provide a wealth of information for those interested in leading and serving. In northern Indiana, the Community Foundation of Greater Fort Wayne, Foellinger Foundation, local chapter of AFP as well as many others offer informative resources. I also leverage knowledge sharing and professional development available through the Indiana University Lilly School of Philanthropy. I encourage you to consider similar resources in your community.
Committing to and engaging in any professional service requires accountability, adhering to a professional code of conduct, and fully understanding expectations. The dynamics of community and nonprofit leadership necessitates. Diversification also represents an important element. Collectively, business professionals offer a valued lens for the team. Individually, we each bring unique skills to the table given our various journeys and stories. Prior to committing as a board member, consider committee or volunteer assistance. Leverage available resources. For those of you serving the community, I look forward to your advice for our audience! As I introduce the topic to our readers, I hope to have set the stage for engaged dialogue.
Alliance for Nonprofit Management
American Council on Gift Annuities
Association of Lutheran Development Executives
The Chronicle of Philanthropy
Council for Advancement and Support of Education
Council on Foundations
The Giving Institute
National Association of Charitable Gift Planners
National Center for Charitable Statistics