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5) Establish a Board of Directors

  • The board of directors governs the organization. The board is responsible for establishing the direction of the organization and for its financial, ethical, and legal well-being. The board is also responsible for hiring the executive director and for ongoing oversight. If board members also fulfill other roles within the organization, as they often do in humane organizations, they should have a clear understanding that this work is separate and apart from their role as board members. They must respect the authority of the appointed executive director and staff with regards to daily operations.

  • Create a winning team. Board members should be expected to do more for your organization than attend meetings and help govern its direction. Nonprofit board members can bring needed skills to help implement your business plan and connections to help move forward on your goals.

    Identify the skills and talents you need as well as the personalities necessary to make your organization work. Legal, accounting, veterinary, public relations, fundraising and business skills can all be valuable to your organization. Once you identify the types of skills needed, list potential individuals to contact. If you do not know them well, you will want to check them out – meet and talk with them. Also, talk with others who have worked with them in the past. Their ability to work well with others and their commitment to the core values of your organization are as important as their talents.

  • Factors to consider when selecting Board members:
    • Will they work well with your group? A single individual can impede progress and make the group ineffective.
    • Do they understand and agree with the organization’s mission and goals?
    • Will they have time to devote to be effective?
    • What resources do they bring to the board?
    • Will they commit to donating funds?
    • Will they commit to help with fundraising?
    • Do they have other useful connections?

  • Prevent drama before it begins. Horror stories of troubled boards abound: the overly aggressive individual who scares everyone else off; the nice but uninvolved person who can never make it to the meetings; the contrary person who disagrees with everything.

    To avoid these potential pitfalls, take the time to get to know people before inviting them onto the board. Your bylaws can help with solving problems when they occur; they should allow for removal of a board member and should establish “terms of office” for them, which can provide a non-confrontational way to end an unproductive relationship.

  • Create the right size board. Generally, a smaller board (seven individuals or less) is easier to work with and is often more efficient than a larger one. The size of the board of directors must be set down in your bylaws. Most states require a minimum of three board members.

Next Step: Incorporate Your Organization