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Board Success Blueprint: Know your Responsibilities

The purpose of a Board of Directors is to provide financial, legal, and operational oversight of the non-profit using sound and ethical policies and procedures with an eye to the organization's long-term sustainability. In essence, they are legally required to act in the organization's best interests; this is considered the Board’s “fiduciary” responsibility.

Many board volunteers join a Board of Directors because the organization provides services and supports they have accessed or the volunteer is passionate about its mandate. Unfortunately, few participate with a complete understanding of the Board’s role and responsibilities.

Ensuring that new Board members, whether experienced or new, understand their legal roles and responsibilities falls to the Board Chair and the Recruitment Committee to discuss during recruitment and onboarding.

The following items are essential to discuss as part of the recruitment and onboarding process:

  • Key Board Activities (strategic planning, board recruitment and training, HR related to Executive Director, financial and legal oversight, program oversight, community outreach and public relations, resource (assets, people, facilities) oversight, etc.)

  • Expectations of a Board Member – attendance, being prepared, asking questions, committee involvement, donations, length of tenure, succession pathways, etc.

  • Legal structures or ACTs that govern the Board Of Directors activities, including the Non-Profits' own Bylaws, the Societies Act in BC, and the Canadian Not-for-Profit Corporations Act.

  • Board Liability and Responsibilities as outlined in the above-noted documents.

Beyond the roles and responsibilities portion of the “onboarding” process, it is also a great idea to schedule a Board Meet and Greet so all Board Members and key staff members can welcome the new board members. Depending on the size and composition of your board, you may also want to link recruits with seasoned Board members willing to act as Mentors and provide background information, answer questions, and encourage the new member(s) to share their ideas.

By ensuring that a new Board member understands your Board’s culture, expectations, activities, and responsibilities and is connected within the Board, the new Board member is set up for success.

A well-informed Board member can confidently ask questions, make decisions, share appropriate expertise, and ensure that the organization's needs are always put first. This is what all Boards are looking for. Let’s ensure they are all set up for success!

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