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Strong volunteer boards crucial to nonprofits

What makes a good nonprofit even better? A strong and passionate volunteer board. The value that a nonprofit board brings to the table is immeasurable—going beyond making sure organizations stay true to their missions and focusing on high-level strategy and accountability. It could be said that a strong board is part of the secret sauce to a well-run and effective organization. 

Building a board is like building a team; each board member has something of value that is needed and important. Every board member has unique skills and expertise that are vital to strengthening the organization. The best boards champion the mission, the staff and the executive director, and are critical to the success of the nonprofit, ultimately shaping the organization’s future.

Why serve on a nonprofit board?

Nonprofits are always looking for candidates that have a passion for their cause and a genuine excitement to support their work in the community. If you’re thinking about serving on a nonprofit board, think about what causes you are passionate about and what skills, talents and expertise you have to offer to support their mission. Examples include knowledge in finance, education, social justice, marketing, fundraising and entrepreneurship. Serving on a nonprofit board allows you to share this experience and knowledge while making a profound difference in your community and supporting a cause you care about.

Being on a nonprofit board can also enrich your personal and professional life. Depending upon your role on the board, it can provide you with new forms of leadership experience, help you learn new skills and allow you to meet interesting people. You’ll no doubt become even more passionate about the organization. You will expand your network, which can provide you with opportunities for development, influence and mentorship. 

Board service is both rewarding and demanding, requiring you to invest your time and energy to ensure the success of the organization. However, the benefits of contributing your time and talent to strengthen a nonprofit is a selfless and important commitment that makes it possible for nonprofits to serve their community at the highest level. 

Before volunteering for a board, ask yourself the following questions: Am I passionate about the cause and interested in advancing it? Am I interested in meeting new people? Am I willing to spend the time necessary to be an involved, collaborative team member? Do I understand and agree with the responsibilities of being on the board? And do I feel comfortable advocating for this nonprofit such as asking others to contribute financially? 

If you answered yes to these questions, find a nonprofit that interests you and discover what it expects of its board members. A first step might be to consider volunteering or joining a committee. Talk to present board members about their experiences and investigate the time commitment needed to be an exceptional board member. Express your interest and let the nonprofit know what you can contribute.

Once on the board, your role will be to steward the nonprofit including serving as a fiduciary with fiscal oversight responsibilities such as using resources wisely, honoring donors’ requests and fundraising, advancing its mission, maintaining community trust, protecting the organization’s assets and resources, adopting policies and upholding its reputation.

Remember, good board members are collaborators and partners who bring in funds and new donors and who connect the nonprofits to their professional and social circles throughout their board tenure. The work is fulfilling, and a board member’s effort plays a significant role in an organization’s health.

The Board-CEO Relationship

Nonprofit CEOs or executive directors typically report to the board chair or the board’s executive committee. In turn, the CEO relies on their boards for support. This synergetic relationship should be one of transparency, trust and confidence. To accomplish this, the CEO and the board should set expectations upfront so the relationship can be as effective and supportive as possible. 

Nonprofit CEOs are focused on managing the day-to-day operations of the nonprofit as well as leading the organization, representing the organization and managing the staff. The board is dedicated to maintaining a strategic governance focus and ultimately serves as an enthusiastic ambassador of the organization. The bottom line: nonprofits need strong boards to fulfill their mission.

The Community Foundation of Anne Arundel County (CFAAC) hosts several educational programs throughout the year to support nonprofits, including programs focused solely on building and  strengthening boards. Visit to find out more. 

The Community Foundation of Anne Arundel County (CFAAC) is celebrating 25 years as a tax-exempt, 501(c)(3), publicly supported philanthropic organization with the long-term goal of building permanent funds that provide support to local nonprofit organizations through grants and special projects. Our mission is to inspire and promote giving in Anne Arundel County by connecting people who care with causes that matter. Established in 1998, CFAAC is one of the largest funders of nonprofit organizations in Anne Arundel County. CFAAC distributes $4 to $6 million annually. This story was originally published in the October 8, 2023 edition of the CAPITAL GAZETTE.



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