Board members should understand their duties are to care for the organization and to work in the best interests of the organization. Their individual responsibilities towards the organization are defined by law and best practices. Board members make decisions as a board (govern together) and support as individuals (e.g., advise the executive director, bring network connections, serve as an ambassador to the community, etc.). Individual board members do not make decisions on behalf of the board. Remember, the executive director manages the organization, and the board governs by providing fiduciary, strategic, and generative leadership that advances the organization’s work.

Board members should be committed to the mission and work of the organization. As individuals, board members add knowledge, resources, and connections to the development, implementation, and evaluation of key programs and services. As you think about the aspects of individual responsibilities, also consider specific board roles like the board chair, other officers, and members. The board chair and officers along with board members should have position descriptions and training available to support their fulfillment of responsibilities. (More information on positions is available in Chapter 3. Composition & Development.)


Exploring Executive Leadership

The term executive director is used throughout the guide when referring to the role of executive leadership. Nonprofits can approach the role of executive leadership in many different ways. Your organization may have a single executive director, co-executive directors, or some form of distributed leadership. Exploring and establishing a leadership structure that works for your nonprofit is important.

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