Also serving the communities of De Luz, Rainbow, Camp Pendleton, Pala and Pauma

Serving on nonprofit boards

Dr. Rick Koole

LifePointe Church

Fallbrook is filled with many fine boards that oversee public, private, nonprofit and church organizations. I personally sit on a number of local and national boards and chair a couple of them.

In addition, I occasionally get asked to consult with boards seeking direction on how to operate in a more expeditious manner. Because so many of you are on boards (including church boards) let me briefly share some of the key essentials that every board member should know regardless of what kind of board they are on.

Every board has two primary responsibilities; to guard the Mission and the Money. The first is to ensure that the organization pursues its Mission as stated in its Bylaws. Without board vigilance, organizations often drift from their initial mission. The board’s role is to make sure mission drift is corrected when this happens.

The second of the two primary responsibilities is to ensure the organization is financially sound. This includes safeguarding the assets of the organization as well as installing procedures designed to thwart financial indiscretions.

With that being said, what are the characteristics of a really good board member, regardless of whether it is school board, public board, nonprofit board, or church board? Following are 17 characteristics of a really good board member.

Comes to meetings prepared.

Attends all meetings unless absolutely impossible.

Respects the confidentiality of what is discussed at board and committee meetings.

Remembers that the CEO reports only to the board as a whole, and not to individual board members.

Understands that all other paid staff in the organization report to the CEO and not to the board or individual board members.

Leaves his or her personal agenda outside of the board room.

Avoids any conflict of interest or the appearance of impropriety, and doesn’t use board membership for personal gain or publicity.

Recognizes that they have no authority as an individual; that decisions can only be made by a majority vote at a duly called meeting of the board.

Maintains positive support for decisions of the board once approved.

Gives other board members, as well as staff members “the benefit of the doubt” when becoming privy to disturbing comments.

Encourages and respects the free expression of opinions by other board members.

Represents all the owners of the organization honestly and equally and refuses to surrender their responsibilities to special interest or partisan groups.

Takes no private action nor makes no personal promises that might compromise the board or the administration.

Supports the majority decisions of the board, maintaining a positive spirit while retaining the right to seek changes in such decisions through ethical and constructive channels.

Directs concerned individuals to the appropriate staff person, taking an issue to the board chair only after they are convinced the board or administration policy has not been followed.

Encourages and respects the free expression of opinions by their fellow board members and others who may appear before the board.

Supports and protects the organization's personnel in the proper performance of their duties.

It is important that some form of orientation is conducted for all new members of the board. Although they may be very successful in their own careers, it should not be assumed that they know what the expectations are for them when they join your board. And it is also wise for boards to periodically have their current board members do a session reminding them of the principles of good board governance.


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