How Charity Boards Work

Charity boards are at the heart of every nonprofit, charitable organization. They are in charge of the resources, and have the main hand of power in deciding what direction the charity will take and how it will be run.

Prominent members of the community often run these boards because they are both authoritative and knowledgeable, and have excellent networking skills. Often charity boards will also have a diverse set of skills onboard because it is seated at the top of an organization. There will be a number of issues that need to be solved, and having the resources within the board to confront those issues is a good idea.

So how does a charity board work? It starts with a small group of people with varying purposes, including a fiscal sponsor, an attorney, an accountant, local celebrities or well-known people, someone with managerial or writing experience, and any additional individuals who might further the charity’s purpose.

A charity board’s main purpose is to govern. It helps guide the organization and supports its staff, while at the same time providing necessary daily resources and funds. An organization’s charity board should also keep it financially stable and complicit with all state and federal laws. It offers organization and ideas for generating revenue.

The founder of a charity is responsible for creating the board, and the board in turn hires staff, assuming the charity continues to grow. It’s also the board’s responsibility to make the organization self-sustaining, so that it’s independent of any one person, such as the founder or a board member. That way, if that person leaves the organization for some reason, it can carry on.

The number of people on a charity board can vary depending on the organization and state. For example, in New York, the Museum of Modern Art has fifty-seven trustees with voting rights on its board.  In contrast, the Robin Hood Foundation (also in New York) has only 31 members on its board. These boards features such leading lights as Marie-Josee KravisGlenn D. Lowry, and Ken Mehlman.

Without a charity board, a non-profit can’t be founded. But the good news is that prominent community members will often be interested in getting involved if it’s a cause they believe in. And having a strong, cohesive board is what makes a charity run smoothly.


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