The board of directors is an essential component of nonprofit leadership. We seek boards that are engaged, embrace their roles and responsibilities, are committed to transparency, and value both short- and long-term planning.
Rules vary from state to state, but every board has significant legal and ethical duties that it cannot delegate to others including legal, management, program, and financial oversight. Beyond the board there may be committees that further assist the organization. Committees have representation from the Board but are also an opportunity to engage other community volunteers to serve, especially if these members have subject matter expertise.
Your volunteers likely have significant experience and knowledge that can help you move your organization further faster if you leverage their skills in the right way.
- Build your committees with a wide range of talents, personalities, and life experiences. Ensure your committees represent your community in ethnicity, gender, and voices not always represented. (A word of caution: a Finance Committee comprised of only accountants will soon become a burden, as members debate accounting practices!)
- Implement a set of clear expectations when volunteers are asked to serve. Start them off with a thorough orientation to include your most recent audit, financial statements, policies, and organizational chart. Communicate their role and how their input is valuable to you and the organization; don’t be afraid to ask them for their opinion. Guide them and they will provide the support you need. Leave them floundering and they will find their own scope of work that may not be as helpful.
- Provide financial information to your volunteers in a timely and relevant manner, preferably in advance of meetings. Add and subtract reports as circumstances dictate and clearly explain why the information is important and what you are trying to convey.
- Be transparent with your volunteers. When in doubt, lean toward sharing information. Don’t let your volunteers have a reason to say, “I didn’t know.”
- Bring your committee chairs in closer. Seek their counsel one on one and have them hold the rest of the group accountable for being prepared and having reviewed the financial information ahead of the meeting. If you are having difficulty moving a committee issue forward, work with the chair to develop a strategy for success. Sometimes volunteers respond better volunteer to volunteer.
- Use sub-committees to focus in on a specific problem or set of issues for a limited time. Smaller groups allow you to engage volunteers’ specific knowledge around the task in a tighter way. A smaller group also gives everyone more space to engage and share openly.
- Go a step further and leverage a task force from time to time. A task force gives you an opportunity to bring in additional subject matter experts for a limited time to enrich the discussion and improve decision making.
Leveraging the talent, experience and knowledge of your volunteers can make a huge difference in the long-term financial success of your organization. Sharing information in a timely, relevant, and transparent way brings more great minds into the mix in both positive and challenging times!
Want to learn more about working with volunteer boards?