Posted , by Keith Curtis. Topic: Board Development.

Last week while making a presentation, I asked the group if the members of their boards were hesitant to make calls asking for gifts. When many attendees said yes, I assumed that a big reason was the current economy. Instead, I learned that the problem was much more basic.

What it boiled down to was that the boards most challenged by fundraising were the ones that don’t have a Roles and Responsibilities Statement. Or maybe they have one, but they never review it with new members. So when people join the board, they have no idea what’s expected of them.

Yesterday I was talking with Nancy (our communications director) about doing a blog post on this, and she reminded me that BoardSource was holding a webinar today on this very topic. She sat in on the webinar and will do a post this week summarizing the presentation.

Until then, she noted that the three main roles of a nonprofit board, according to the BoardSource presenter (and we agree) are to establish organizational direction, ensure the necessary resources, and provide oversight. Look for details on these roles and on the six primary responsibilities of board members in our next post.

I’ll close with this example of why you must be clear about what’s expected of board members. When a well-known business leader was recruited to a local nonprofit board, he told them that he wouldn’t give to the organization or raise money. They said no problem, that they would benefit just from his name, so he agreed. Then six months down the road when the board launched a campaign, they asked him to make a gift and call on others for gifts. His response was, “No, I told you I wouldn’t do that.” And I’ll never forget the next thing he said: “I lived up to their expectations.”

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