What you need to know before joining the Board of Trustees:
The traditional independence of the nonprofit sector is reflected in a common legal framework that approaches self-regulation. Accordingly, the Board of Trustees represents the state and the general public in ensuring that the corporation operates in accordance with its articles of incorporation.
Role of the Board
The Board operates in three dimensions:
1. It is a legal body that embodies the practical requirement of civic responsibility, and carries the formal, legal ownership of the organization. Trustees are fiduciaries, which is a legal term meaning individuals in whom property or power is entrusted for the benefit of others. While failure to carry out our roles as fiduciaries could conceivably lead to personal liability, that risk is negligible as long as we act responsibly by informed regular attendance.
2. It is a functional body that oversees the financial health of the organization, raises funds for the organization, and recruits individuals with needed skills and experience. A Board does what needs to be done. For an organization starting up, the Board may perform any number of administrative tasks. The boundary between Board and staff roles evolves over time and maturity of the organization. For a mature organization like this one, The Board’s responsibility is purely oversight.
3. It is a symbolic body. It is important that the makeup of the Board reflect the diversity of the organization’s constituency in order to lend credibility to the organization. For example, we make every effort to recruit young people as officers/trustees. A broad array of attributes, skills, and experience communicates the organization’s status and values. While we are seeking the specific skills and experience the Board needs, it’s more important that the officers and trustees reflect a commitment to the organization and a willingness to make informed decisions.
Duties of the Board
The Duty of Obedience assures the state and the public that the organization operates for the purpose for which it was formed, and that it operates in compliance with the laws that govern and regulate it. While there is very little regulation of non-profits per se, we are subject to ancillary regulations related to our programming and physical plant, such as health and safety regulations and licensing requirements.
The Duty of Care includes the responsibility of the Board to meet regularly in accordance with our bylaws, and that the meetings are well attended. It assumes that the process is candid and documented by written minutes. The duty of care requires that decisions of the Board are informed and guided by the “prudent person” standard. It is not necessary that each decision be right, as long as the decision is carefully made. Adhering to the duty of care minimizes our personal liability.
The Duty of Loyalty requires that all decisions be based on the best interests of the organization as a whole, avoiding even the appearance of a conflict of interest. It’s incumbent on us to strive to put our individual biases aside in our decision-making, at the same time not losing sight of the organization’s historical mission to serve youth. The duty of loyalty also implies a moral obligation to be cognizant and respectful of community values in addition to behavior in keeping with our organizational values.
Role of the Individual Trustee
Following is what will be expected of you, individually, as a member of the Board of Trustees:
¨ Say “yes” twice: once to the invitation; once to the commitment. [Care]
¨ Guard and preserve the mission and public benefit of the organization. [Obedience]
¨ Attend meetings. [Care]
¨ Be well informed, and ask questions. [Care]
¨ Be vigilant in maintaining the integrity of the organization, putting the interest of the organization above all self-interest. [Loyalty]
¨ Support the organization by making what is for you a significant financial donation, and actively engage in fundraising in whatever ways are best suited to your abilities. [Loyalty]
Individual Development Plan
UU Rowe Camp and Conference Center’s current development budget of $211,150, of which the Board has committed to raising $50,000, consists of contributions from individuals, foundations, and corporations. In order to maintain a successful development program, all Board members are expected to make their own personal gift and to participate in activities to raise money from individual donors.
Each Board member is expected to participate in the development plan through holding a portfolio, sharing leadership for implementation of the development plan, and participating in two of the three major fundraising campaigns. Board members will pair up in partnerships to provide mutual support. Each Board member completes a yearly individual development agreement, which outlines his or her commitment to the development plan.
When you are here for a Board meeting, mingle with the guests and learn about who they are, why they are here, and what they like or don’t like about Rowe. Board members are Rowe ambassadors.
On the other hand, keep in mind that you do not speak for the Board unless you are reporting on a Board vote. It is sometimes tempting to express a personal opinion and let the audience believe that it is “official.” Resist the temptation.
Don’t forget to call and register when you are coming for a meeting, are planning to stay over, or be present for a meal. Be prepared to stay in a dorm room. If you want a private room, you can request it, but priority will be given to guests and to Board members only if there are vacancies.
Do not micro-manage. Know the chain of command and bring questions or concerns to one of the directors, unless something is going to happen that needs immediate intervention.
Be attentive to the care and feeding of the staff. When we are here for a Board meeting, they are already working hard to make the guest/camper experience the best it can be. Feel free to ask “what can I do to help?”
Duca, Diane J. Nonprofit Boards: Roles, Responsibilities and Performance. New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1996.
Holland, Thomas P. and David C. Hester, eds. Building Effective Boards for Religious Organizations: A Handbook for Trustees, Presidents, and Church Leaders. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1999.
Reilly, Tom. The Attorney General’s Guide for Board Members of Charitable Organizations. Boston: Office of the Attorney General, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
Robinson, Maureen K. Nonprofit Boards That Work: The End of One-Size-Fits-All Governance. New York: John Wiley & Sons, 2001.