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IdeaEncore logoBoard Roles and Responsibilities

January 2012

Nonprofit board members have two basic responsibilities—support and governance—each requiring different skills and expertise. In the role of "supporter" board members raise money, bring contacts to the organization, and act as ambassadors to the community. Equally important, the "governance" role involves protection of the public interest, being a fiduciary, selecting the executive director and assessing his/ her performance, ensuring compliance with legal and tax requirements, and evaluating the organization's work.

IdeaEncore (now provides hundreds of links and documents that can help your board—and your nonprofit—better understand the important roles and responsibilities of your board. Check out these helpful resources listed below.

Short, Quick, Easy-to-Use Tools

Basic Roles and Responsibilities

  • Union Square Main Streets' Board of Directors Roles & Responsibilities outlines the basic board member responsibilities and functions (free).
  • CompassPoint Nonprofit Services' All Hands on Board: The Board of Volunteers in an all Volunteer Organization breaks down in detail the 10 most important responsibilities of board members (free).
  • NonProfit Direct's presentation The Three D's: The Duty of Care, The Duty of Loyalty, and the Duty of Obedience breaks down the responsibilities of board members to ensure legal and ethical integrity (free).
  • Ohio Attorney General's Guide for Charity Board Members outlining the roles and responsibilities for board members (free).
  • Part of the Capaciteria collection, this Board and Staff Responsibilities form from the Free Management Library lists common activities in a nonprofit organization and explains whether board members, staff or a joint team should perform the function. Following these guidelines helps to define the board and staff relationship and clarify responsibilities (free).
  • BoardSource's Ten Basic Responsibilities of Nonprofit Boards discusses ten core areas of board responsibility that can be adapted to fit the differing needs of most nonprofit organizations. Basic board responsibilities include determining the organization's mission and purpose, choosing and evaluating the chief executive, ensuring effective planning, and participating in fundraising (off-site price varies).
  • The Association of Fundraising Professionals' Building an Effective Board of Directors explains how to assess the makeup and performance of a board of directors, identify and recruit board members, involve the board in fundraising, and build a better board (free).
  • Texas Nonprofit Management Assistance Network's Board Membership: A Privilege & an Obligation defines the roles and responsibilities of board members, including understanding of their legal duties, meeting management, and techniques for improved board effectiveness ($50).

Board Chair Responsibilities

  • If you're a board chair who needs a little help understanding your role, read Scribner & Associates' book Are You Chairing a Board by the Seat of Your Pants? ($7.50).
  • Whether you are a seasoned board chair wanting to brush up, an incoming board chair seeking knowledge and skills, or a person considering the possibility of becoming a board chair, BoardSource's The Board Chair Handbook, Second Edition, provides the blueprint for being successful and effective in your leadership role ($54).
  • The Board Member Roles and Responsibilities video shares the importance of understanding the legal rights and responsibilities of a board chair (free).

Special Board Roles and Responsibilities

Flo Green, IdeaEncore Network
3722 IdeaEncore Network
Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Florence (Flo) Green is co-founder and vice president of IdeaEncore Network (, which envisions a future in which every nonprofit shares what they know. Nonprofits can use our online information resource exchange to save time/money by reusing shared knowledge, by uploading files/links for others to use (for free or to sell), by making their expertise visible by "liking," rating, and commenting, and by embedding their branded online library—that displays IdeaEncore resources—within their Web sites.

Note: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and may or may not represent GuideStar's opinions. GuideStar is committed to providing a range of topics and perspectives to our users. We make every effort to obtain articles from knowledgeable, trustworthy sources, but we make no warranties or representations with regard to articles written by persons outside GuideStar.