Keep your board in the know

A nonprofit’s board of directors must play many roles, yet many boards lack the information they need to do their job effectively.

So make sure your staff gives your board a steady flow of the clear, substantive information it needs.

A board must govern the nonprofit, set its direction, hire and supervise the executive director,  oversee finances and investments, and assist in fundraising.

Yet, other than an orientation session for new members, regular meetings that often involve little more than routine discussions, and possibly an annual retreat, boards typically are not plugged into the daily life of the organization.

That disconnection can lead to dysfunction and serious problems. If a board is not aware of what actually is going on, often because the executive director is the board’s only source of information, what might begin as seemingly minor problems involving staff morale or shortfalls in finances or fundraising, for example, can spin out of control and put the organization at serious risk.

And if it is not well-versed and kept up to speed on all aspects of the nonprofit — from the need it addresses and the people it serves to the programs it delivers and the difference it makes to its constituents — the board will be of little use in setting long-term goals and strategies, helping the executive director address organizational challenges, or providing connections to prospective donors and raising money.

Equipping the board to do its job requires clear, continual communication from the staff.

So keep board members informed and up to date about the organization, and prepared to  talk about it.

Give them your nonprofit’s basic story, including the need you address, the people and places you serve, the programs you deliver, and the difference you make.

Help them understand your donors, what they care about, and how supporting your nonprofit will address community needs while advancing the donors’ own values.

Set aside time at every board meeting to talk about key organizational issues, to get feedback on them from board members, and to give them an opportunity to practice telling your nonprofit’s story.

And make sure that, before joining the board, prospective members are fully versed in the many roles they will be expected to play.

For your nonprofit to thrive, you need a board that is informed, engaged and prepared to tell your story.

Want help?

Philanthropy North Carolina is a consulting practice that provides writing and strategic communications support for nonprofits, foundations, colleges and universities, and others working for social good.

To find out more about hiring Philanthropy North Carolina to work with your organization to improve your communications, contact Todd Cohen at 919.272.2051 or

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