Volunteerism and Board of Directors
If you serve as a volunteer director on a non-profit board, your dedication and hard work ensure that communities enjoy improved benefits, opportunities, and services. Volunteer boards help shape a more compassionate society committed to helping those in need.
Non-profit organizations are governed by volunteers who serve on the boards and have no shareholders. In general, the terms, non-profit organization, association, society, and charity are often used interchangeably though this usage of terms is not necessarily always correct.
To successfully meet their mandates, non-profit organizations require structure, direction, resources, and accountability. These structures clearly define roles and responsibilities for the board and employees. These roles include Board Chair or President, Treasurer, Secretary, the CEO and Staff, and Ad Hoc or Standing Committees.
Serving on a volunteer board can be filled with responsibilities that are not without risks. For some it is surprising to learn that their legal responsibilities are similar to corporate directors, even though they aren’t paid to contribute their time and talents.
Dual Roles as a Director
Volunteers serving on non-profit boards have two roles. The first is a leadership role where you help the organization figure out where it’s going and how it will get there. The second role is stewardship. In the stewardship role your job is to ensure that the organization’s assets are sustainable and protected.
Some non-profits start off as grassroots operations. In these organizations, there is little in the way of cash to pay employees so everyone, including the board of directors, pitch in to host events and manage the operation. This format is called an Operational Board.
The bulk of non-profit boards are Governance Boards. Governance Boards are not hands-on. Rather, the job of a Governance Board is to decide the compensation for the Executive Director or CEO, approve budgets and audits, and participate in the strategic planning process. The CEO leads the organization and the staff report up to the CEO.
Elaine Allan, BA, MBA
Technology & Business Blogger