Written by: Trella R. Walker, JD
Associate Director for Advisory Services
Nonprofit Finance Fund (NFF)
AABLI alumna, Class #9
All good board members know it is our job to make sure our organization has a solid budget that supports the organization’s ability to meet both its short and long term goals. So we do our due diligence and pass a responsible budget that can be used to guide the organization for the year.
But what’s next? We are halfway through the year, and we want to stay focused on governing, not on managing our nonprofit. This is where we often find ourselves in challenging waters. It is easy to step beyond the boundaries of board member and into the role of management when we are not clear about our goals.
Governing board members, we have a clearly delineated purpose: supporting the mission and vision of the organization. This means the following goals are our guiding principles after we pass the budget:
- Consistent support of the organization’s budget management – Are we on target with both revenue and/or expenses? If not, what strategies can be utilized to support where we are off course?
- Focus on strategic direction and/or strategic plan – Are we in line with the long term goals established for the organization? What can we do to continue to meet those goals? Where do we need to shift or focus more attention?
- Support programming – How can we engage in ways that are constructive and useful? Participate in programming? Volunteer?
- Utilize professional skills and contacts to move the organization forward – What expertise do we have to support the organization? Who do we know with the expertise that will benefit the organization?
- Fundraise – Can we identify ways to generate more revenue?
Working board members, our goals extend beyond governance and include additional goals:
- Provide resources – What part of our time, treasure and talents can help the organization function?
- Facilitate strategic direction that will lead the organization toward independent sustainability – What can we do to help move the organization toward independence from its board?
Whether we are a governing board member or a working board member, we must remain clear that it is not our goal to manage our organization. In our efforts to support the mission and vision, we can easily fall into involving ourselves in day-to-day operations. While the executive leadership may appreciate our help, we must stay mindful of letting them do their jobs. They, after all, know the nuances and layers of the work that the organization is dedicated to accomplishing.
There is a thin line between governance and management. Board members must not rely on executive leadership to keep us from crossing the line; we need to monitor our own behavior in order to stay in alignment with our ultimate purpose: supporting the mission and vision.
Trella Walker provides nonprofits with data-driven analyses that frame Nonprofit Finance Fund’s consulting guidance in a comprehensive and clear manner. Specific bodies of work include team promotion of the full cost work through the Philanthropy California project, leading national initiatives that help provide support and access to dynamic arts organizations through partnerships with organizations like the International Association of Blacks in Dance MOVE initiative and the National Performance Network LANE initiative, and supporting continued messaging regarding the learnings garnered from these bodies of work through workshops and writings in the field. Prior to joining NFF, she worked in nonprofits across a variety of fields including arts and entertainment, youth, education, healthcare, veteran affairs, and law. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in English and Secondary Education as well as a Juris Doctor degree.
This blog is not written by aabli.org or The African American Board Leadership Institute. The author is solely responsible for the content.