Strengthen My Board

The Board of Directors is responsible for assuring that a nonprofit is making progress toward achieving its mission of service to the community. The board must organize itself to be efficient and effective, assuring that the organization operates in an ethical, forthright, and law-abiding manner. The board of directors is responsible for assuring adequate human and financial resources, hiring and supervising the chief executive, and actively monitoring and evaluating the organization’s financial and programmatic performance. To do this well, nonprofit board members must understand the full scope of their responsibilities and roles as well as the relationship between the board and the professional staff and volunteers.

We’ve organized the resources we offer to help you strengthen your board based on wherever you fall in your nonprofit lifecycle. For a summary of our resources, download our Annotated Ed Packet and Board Room Quick Tips overviews.  Download Resource.

New nonprofits often have a “kitchen table” board consisting of friends of the founder(s). Decision-making is consensus based, power is shared, and all viewpoints are taken into account. This is a busy time! Your focus is likely organizational start-up, while simultaneously running programs and recruiting and orienting volunteers.

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The Standards for Excellence code provides guidance on board members' responsibilities, "An effective nonprofit board should determine the mission of the organization, establish management policies and procedures, assure that adequate human and financial resources are available, and actively monitor the organization's allocation of resources to effectively and efficiently fulfill its mission." See the Code's board leadership benchmarks.

Bylaws are your organization’s rules for internal governance and dictate the specifics regarding how the board of directors functions and how important decisions are made and carried out. Bylaws should be signed by at least two officers and must be attached to the federal tax-exemption application. Customize our sample bylaws for your nonprofit: Download Resource. .

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The “Board Composition and Independence” educational resource packet covers board member recruitment and selection; board committees; board diversity; term limits; compensation; board size; board independence and more. Members, login to the Member Portal and search “Board Composition and Independence.”

The “Board Member Responsibilities” educational resource packet covers board members' legal responsibilities; board member development, orientation and training; board meetings and attendance; the board's evaluations of its own performance and more. Members, login to the Member Portal and search “Board Member Responsibilities.”

The sample “Board Member Job Description” provides a concise overview of the general expectations for board members. Customize it to build your own job description for recruiting purposes. Members, login to the Member Portal and search “Board Member Job Description.”

As your organization grows, the Board of Directors may take on program and operational roles in addition to governing roles. No longer a volunteer, the Executive Director shifts to paid status, with their performance evaluated by the Board of Directors. It’s time to hire your first paid professional staff members. Your board is growing, too, and you must integrate new board members and establish board committees.

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Join the Nonprofit Development Center for training, resources, and consulting related to strengthening your board. It's free to participate thanks to support from the Maryland Department of Commerce. Learn more and apply. 

"Robert’s Rules of Order" help boards maintain order by providing an approved method of conducting meetings in a democratic and orderly way. Orderly meetings effectively uphold the organization’s objectives according to the bylaws, and protect the rights of the organization’s members. Download Resource. .
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Protect your board of directors from personal loss in the event that your nonprofit is sued. Directors and Officers' (D and O) Liability Insurance covers the defense costs, settlements, and judgments arising out of lawsuits and wrongful act allegations brought against your organization. Provided by CHUBB and available to members for only $750 annually. Standards for Excellence accredited organizations receive an additional 10% discount. Learn more.

Board Excellence Handbook: A comprehensive resource for those who serve on boards of nonprofits operating in Maryland. It includes a basic overview of the nonprofit sector and all the key legal and fiduciary responsibilities of the board. The Handbook also includes a wide range of best practices for boards of directors including how to recruit a diverse board, principles of executive oversight, and board operations and performance. The book is packed with tools and tips and has many appendices, including a sample conflict of interest policy, board composition matrix, committee roles and responsibilities, a board self-assessment and more. Visit the online store. 

The growth phase is an exciting time in your nonprofit's development! Get some professional assistance with planning for your future. Consider a consulting engagement in Strategic Planning. Learn more.

Build your board members' knowledge, skills, and abilities with customized training. Our team of facilitators can present on "Innovative Board Recruitment and Management;" "Board Excellence;" "Board Roles & Responsibilities" and more. Available to both members and non-members - members at discounted rates! See customized board development trainings.

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The “Board and Executive Partnership” educational resource packet covers board and staff roles and responsibilities; understanding management and governance; hiring/evaluating/terminating the chief executive and more. Members, login to the Member Portal and search “Board and Executive Partnership.”

The “Board Member Composition and Independence” educational resource packet covers employees on the board; relatives and business associates in board leadership positions; board member recruitment and selection; board diversity; term limits; compensation and more. Members, login to the Member Portal and search “Board Member Composition and Independence.”

The “Board Composition Analysis” matrix facilitates analysis of your board’s composition and diversity, and helps you identify the missing skill sets that you may want to prioritize for recruitment. Members, login and search “Board Composition Analysis.”

The “Personnel Policies, Employee Orientation, Compensation, and Evaluation” educational resource packet covers board and staff human resource roles and responsibilities; personnel policies and procedures; staff management; compensation structure; executive compensation and annual evaluation and more. Members, login to the Member Portal and search “Personnel Policies, Employee Orientation, Compensation, and Evaluation.”

Board Room Quick Tips: Easy to digest, two-page resources for board leaders on common topics/issues that are challenging or can increase efficiency. Members, login and search: Board Member Job Description; Board Mentor Program; Board Composition Analysis.

Your organization is mature and functioning at a high level. Founders have rotated-off the board of directors, and the board is diverse and representative of the community you serve. You probably have several committees working on important topics like development or board member recruitment. 

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Codify your forward momentum with a strategic plan. With perspectives from your board, staff, and other stakeholders, our consultants can help you create a high-impact plan. Learn more.  

Your board members will benefit from a common understanding of the board’s role and an opportunity to hear and consider best practices from across the sector. Invite our trainers to present a Board Excellence customized training. Available to both members and non-members - members at discounted rates! See customized board development trainings. 

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The “Succession Planning” educational resource packet covers preparing for succession/leadership development; developing succession plans and procedures; hiring a new executive director; board succession planning and more. Members, login to the Member Portal and search “Succession Planning.”

Board Room Quick Tips: Easy to digest, two-page resources for board leaders on common topics/issues that are challenging or can increase efficiency. Members, login and search: Board Member Succession Planning; Term Limits: Board Member Exit Interviews.

Your board suffers from low attendance and high turnover. There is conflict between board members and/or between the board and staff, and the organization has a high rate of turnover among executive staff and board members. The executive director makes decisions without consulting the board and is inaccessible and unable to meet deadlines and priorities. Or, the board makes all decisions independently, and “rubber-stamps” them, approving them automatically without proper consideration. Your staff expresses complaints and grievances. The board cannot agree on the primary mission of the organization.

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When times are challenging, an outside perspective can help to bridge gaps. Talk to our consulting group about an engagement focused on consensus building, executive transition, conflict resolutions, or strategic mergers. Learn more.

Board Excellence Handbook: A comprehensive resource for those who serve on boards of nonprofits operating in Maryland. It includes a basic overview of the nonprofit sector and all the key legal and fiduciary responsibilities of the board. The Handbook also includes a wide range of best practices for boards of directors including how to recruit a diverse board, principles of executive oversight, and board operations and performance. The book is packed with tools and tips and has many appendices, including a sample conflict of interest policy, board composition matrix, committee roles and responsibilities, a board self-assessment and more. Visit the online store. 

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The “Mission, Impact and Planning” educational resource packet shares example mission statements, and covers the steps to a strategic planning process, Members, login and search “Mission, Impact and Planning.”

The “Board and Executive Partnership” educational resource packet covers board and staff roles and responsibilities; understanding management and governance; hiring/evaluating/terminating the chief executive and more. Members, login to the Member Portal and search “Board and Executive Partnership.”

The “Reporting Misconduct and Whistleblower Protection” educational resource packet covers the benefits ofreporting improprieties; confidential ways to report; protections for whistleblowers and more. Members, login to the Member Portal and search “Reporting Misconduct and Whistleblower Protection.”

Board Room Quick Tips: Easy to digest, two-page resources for board leaders on common topics/issues that are challenging or can increase efficiency. Members, login and search: The Working Board Member; Board Member Term Limits; Board Member Exit Interviews; Tips and Tricks for the President; Board Calendars; Board Meeting Consent Agenda; Meeting Minutes; Meeting Agendas.

The storm has passed. Your organization has a new trajectory and new leadership (board, executive, or both). Roles and responsibilities are clarified. There are many changes in program staff, either by hiring new staff or reassigning existing staff. Collaboration is the theme of the day, both internally and externally. You are likely developing formal linkages with other organizations.

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Consider your organization's future: work with our consultants on Sustainability Planning. Learn more.

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The “Board and Executive Partnership” educational resource packet covers board and staff roles and responsibilities; understanding management and governance; hiring/evaluating/terminating the chief executive and more. Members, login to the Member Portal and search “Board and Executive Partnership.”

The “Checklist of Compliance with Selected Legal, Regulatory, and Financial Reporting Requirements” helps you understand whether your nonprofit is complying all applicable federal, state, and local laws. Members, login and search “Checklist of Compliance with Selected Legal, Regulatory, and Financial Reporting Requirements.”

Board Room Quick Tips: Easy to digest, two-page resources for board leaders on common topics/issues that are challenging or can increase efficiency. Members, login and search: Board Member Job Description; Board Mentor Program; Board Composition Analysis.

The “Sample Executive Director Evaluation Process Evaluation Tool” includes who is responsible for evaluating the executive, when to begin the process, describes a 3-step evaluation process, and includes an evaluation rubric for use by the executive and board.  Members, login and search “Sample Executive Director Evaluation Process.”

The “Sample Position Description Nonprofit Executive Director/CEO” is customizable for your needs. It covers basic duties in the areas of mission advancement, financial sustainability, governance, and operations, and suggests qualifications and skills for consideration. Members, login and search “Sample Position Description Nonprofit Executive Director/CEO.”

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