One of the biggest mysteries for nonprofit founders is about the Board of Directors. How do you find the right people? Is it ok to start with friends and family? How many do I need and when? What do I even do with them?
First, we need to clarify the purpose of the board of directors.
Formally speaking, the Board of Directors has three legal responsibilities and 10 traditional roles/duties. These things are essential but there is an even bigger picture why your Board of Directors is critical to your success.
Six more things you must know before starting a nonprofit. Part 2: A Nonprofit Organization is Complex
Part one of the “Must Read Series for Nonprofit Founder” talked about the governing structure of a charity and the Board of Directors. Now we’ll look at ways that charities are different from for-profit businesses and how starting a charity is more complex.
I have spent my career in nonprofit planning and administration. I’ve been involved in the early start-up of five charities and now specialize in helping nonprofit start-ups succeed. There are many urban myths about the nonprofit sector. It’s almost as bad as losing weight or having a baby. Everyone may be entitled to their opinion, but wouldn’t you rather be operating from facts?
We at Thrive South have no desire to deter anyone wanting to serve their community. But, much like the medical field, there is a lot at stake when caring people try to help others. Well-meaning but knowledgeable people offer poor advice and founders often put too little effort into planning before filing legal paperwork. Then, they are not prepared to be fiscally responsible, legally compliant, and mission focused.
Read on to see some big misconceptions about how a 501(c)(3) charity is formed. You’ll find that some charities don’t follow these guidelines. Sometimes, leadership may be breaking the law. In others, they may not know better, or they just don’t care.
“Somebody told me I just need a couple of people on the board to help me get started.”
“I want my friends on the Board because we are comfortable with each other and care about the cause.”
If you are starting a charity and have had these thoughts you are not alone. In fact, most charities start with a founder and their friends, even though it’s not the recommended best practice.
The board of directors serves many roles. In a perfect world, charities would be founded by a group of like-minded people who through research and consensus create the mission, vision, and bylaws, then find an executive director to carry out the mission.
This is not usually the case. More often, one person identifies a problem in need of a solution. They define a mission and put together a Board of friends and family with some degree of interest or support. The founder often has limited experience in nonprofit management. With limited access to affordable nonprofit start-up training, they figure things out through internet searches and intuition.
Mentor Kimberly Massey
In addition to my work in the social impact field, I have a great husband of 27 years and an incredible 20 year old daughter. Our family lives in central Mississippi and we provide a loving, but sometimes chaotic home to two awesome dogs and a turtle.
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