Faced with an ever-changing landscape and the annual coming and going of members, boards often scramble to keep up. Time and again, however, our research and experience show that keeping the basic responsibilities in front of the board provide the needed grounding and focus to maintain the board’s effectiveness.
What are these responsibilities? They may be described in various ways. Under the law, board members must meet certain standards of conduct in carrying out their responsibilities to the organization. These are usually described as:
- Duty of care – exercising reasonable care in making decisions as a steward of the organization
- Duty of loyalty – acting in the best interest of the organization and never using information obtained as a member for personal gain
- Duty of obedience – being faithful to the organization’s mission and acting in ways consistent with the organization’s central goals
In our recent Leadership Academy class, Larry Hermen took the Ten Basic Responsibilities of a Board and categorized them as:
- Mission – This includes establishing and evaluating mission & vision, engaging in strategic planning, overseeing programs, and helping the organization communicate effectively
- Money – This includes overseeing the organization’s finances, fundraising, and ensuring sound risk management practices
- Management – This includes managing the work of the board, member recruiting and orientation, and executive director hiring and supervision
In our recent Better Board Series, we reduced the Ten Basic Responsibilities to three foundational tasks:
- Manage relationships – This sets the foundation for fundraising, board recruitment, executive director hiring and supervision, and enhancing the organization’s public standing
- Set direction – This sets the foundation for establishing and evaluating the mission and vision, ensuring effective planning, and monitoring the effectiveness of programs and services
- Ensure integrity – This sets the foundation for proper financial oversight, protecting assets, and ensuring legal compliance
I’m sure there are many other ways to slice and dice these core responsibilities.
The sum of all of these is that they encourage the board to:
- Keep focused attention on its mission as well as the larger cause that it serves
- Work together because no one person or ad hoc group may act on behalf of the board
Keeping these basic responsibilities in front of the board goes a long way to keeping the board engaged and the organization sustainable.