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Create a Board of Directors

The Board of Directors is the governing body of a nonprofit organization.

Your Board of Directors will: 

  • discuss and vote on highest priority issues
  • set organizational policies
  • hire and evaluate key staff
  • advocate for the mission and in the best interests of the organization
  • approve operating budgets
  • establish long-term plans 
  • carry out fundraising activities

10 basic responsibilities of a nonprofit Board:

  1. Determine the organization's mission and purpose.
    Your statement of mission and purpose should articulate your organization's goals, means and who you are serving.  The Board of Directors is responsible for creating the mission statement and for reviewing it periodically for accuracy and validity. Each individual board member should fully understand and support it.
  2. Select the executive.
    Boards must reach consensus on the chief executive’s job description and undertake a careful search process to find the most qualified individual for the position.
  3. Support the executive and review job performance.
    The board should ensure that the chief executive has the moral and professional support needed to further the goals of the organization. The chief executive, in partnership with the entire board, should decide upon a periodic evaluation of the chief executive’s performance.
  4. Ensure effective organizational planning.
    As stewards of an organization, boards must actively participate with staff in an overall planning process and assist in implementing the plan’s goals.
  5. Ensure adequate resources.
    One of the board’s foremost responsibilities is to provide adequate resources for the organization to fulfill its mission. The board should work in partnership with the chief executive and development staff, if any, to raise funds from the community.
  6. Manage resources effectively.
    The board, in order to remain accountable to donors and the public and to safeguard its tax-exempt status, must help develop the annual budget and make sure proper financial controls are in place.
  7. Determine and monitor the organization's programs and services.
    The board's role in this area is to determine which programs are the most consistent with an organization’s mission and to monitor their effectiveness.
  8. Enhance the organization’s public image.
    The board is an organization’s primary link to the community, including constituents, the public and the media. The board must develop a comprehensive public relations strategy to clearly articulate the organization's mission, accomplishments and goals to the public, as well as garner support from important members of the community. 
  9. Serve as a court of appeal.
    Except in the direst of circumstances, the board must serve as a court of appeal in personnel matters. Solid personnel policies, grievance procedures and a clear delegation to the chief executive of hiring and managing employees will reduce the risk of conflict.
  10. Assess its own performance.
    By evaluating its performance in fulfilling responsibilities, the board can recognize its achievements and reach consensus on areas for improvement. The board can discuss the results of a self-assessment at a retreat to develop a long-range plan.

Ten Basic Responsibilities of Nonprofit Boards. National Center for Nonprofit Boards. 1988.


How do we form a Board of Directors?

Your Steering Committee is the first board for your organization. It starts with a small, but committed, group. Often, most members on the first board for literacy organizations are the volunteer tutors. 

Your agency must have a well-rounded and diverse Board of Directors to sustain your mission. Board members should come from a wide variety of backgrounds.  First, decide how many board members you need to get the initial work done.  Then, find people with the skills and expertise needed to get your agency started and help it grow.

Potential board members:

  • Accountant: treasurer/bookkeeper and advise in the formation of a nonprofit
  • Lawyer: advise in legal matters and formation of a nonprofit
  • Educators from local school district, university, tech college: expertise in literacy issues, teaching methodology, training, etc.
  • Business or corporate leaders: expertise in marketing, public relations, strategic planning, fund development, policy making and guide the development of relevant programming
  • Community leaders: advocate/raise awareness for your cause 
  • IT professional: assist with technology needs
  • Human or social service professionals: recruit clients and network
  • Local media: publicize your agency
  • Librarian
  • Tutors
  • Adult learners: share experiences and give feedback about programming