When considering a board position with a nonprofit organization, it is important to first understand the different types of boards and their functions. The most common type is the "board of directors" which oversees all activities and establishes the nonprofit’s mission, strategy, and goals. But other types of nonprofit boards exist as well (such as advisory or fundraising boards). Each type of board has its own specific role in helping the nonprofit achieve its mission. Understanding these differences will help you decide nonprofit board role makes the most sense for you.
Here are a few of the most common types of nonprofit boards:
Unlike the board of directors, the advisory board is not responsible for governance or management of the organization. Instead, its purpose is to provide guidance and recommendations to the executive director and board of directors. Advisory boards can be a great way to gain experience in nonprofit leadership and give back to your community. These are appointed positions and can be a great way to keep prior board members engaged with the organization.
The sole function of the fundraising board is to ensure there is enough funding to sustain the operations of the nonprofit. The members of the fundraising board are responsible for bringing in money from various sources such as foundations, corporations, and individuals. Some responsibilities include securing funds through grants and private giving activities, developing new revenue streams, budgeting expenses
Working boards take on a “player-coach” role in the nonprofit. In addition to their governance responsibilities, working board members can get involved in daily operations and performing the day-to-day work of the organization. Working boards tend to be found in smaller nonprofits that lack the funds to hire full-time staff.
In contrast to working boards, governance boards provide strategic direction and financial oversight to the nonprofit organization rather than the day-to-day operations. Specific responsibilities will vary, but typically, governance board members are responsible for vetting the strategic plan, overseeing the financial health of the organization, and ensuring its compliance with state and federal regulations.
If you want to understand more about how the board of directors operates within a nonprofit organization, I strongly encourage you to sign up for Nonprofit Board Member Essentials. This series of courses is 100% free and provides much more detail on the different roles within a board of directors, different types of boards, and the attributes of high-performing board members.