What is the role of the board?
The board is responsible for providing leadership and direction to a charity. It also bears ultimate legal responsibility.
Generally, boards delegate some of their responsibilities to staff or volunteers. However, there are some things that are usually reserved for the board such as appointing the most senior staff members (for example, the chief executive officer, if the charity has one), developing (or at least approving) a strategic plan, considering how organisational risks should be managed and calling meetings of the charity’s members (if any).
There are some responsibilities that are common to most boards:
- accountability – making sure the charity meets its obligations, manages its finances and operates transparently
- strategy – setting the charity’s long-term goals and making sure it pursues its charitable purposes
- resourcing – securing funding and other resources to support the work of the charity
- advocacy – representing the charity to the community and to its members and stakeholders (with a chief executive officer and staff, if any)
- monitoring – making sure the charity is run as required under its governing document and the law.
What are board members?
Board members are the people who are either elected (usually by the charity’s members) or appointed by nomination (for example, under legislation or under a trust deed) to be a member of the charity’s governing body. These people are sometimes also called directors, committee members, or trustees. Just being appointed does not generally give you any individual authorized to bind the charity (for example to sign a contract on its behalf) – it is the board as a group that has this power.
What are ‘officers’ of the board?
Although boards act as a group, some board members take on extra responsibilities. For example, most boards will appoint a chair (or president), who will be responsible for running meetings and providing leadership to the board.
Some boards appoint a treasurer to be responsible for looking at the charity’s finances in more detail and to help provide them with the information they need to make financial decisions. But don’t forget – all board members need to understand the charity’s financial position, not just the treasurer.