All organisations, and the boards that govern them, are different. They are different sizes, have different missions, do different work, work with different people, etc. But there are certain basic tasks most boards need to undertake if they wish to be successful.
The board is the guardian of the community group's mission and vision – i.e. what it plans to achieve, where it wants to be and how it plans to get there. Its prime role is to keep the vision alive by taking a leading role in planning for the future of the group. This is an important role for boards serving groups with or without staff, although it works best in the former case; removed from the day-to-day concerns of the staff, the board is ideally placed to stand back and take a detached view of potential future directions.
Strategic planning enables groups to think through and document what they are doing, and for whom, and why they are doing it. The process encourages examination of established directions and strategies for contemporary relevance and results. This is a key board responsibility.
Further information about strategic planning is contained in the Strategic planning overview help sheet.
The board is responsible for ensuring the community group meets its legal requirements and remains accountable to donors and other stakeholders. Some of these responsibilities include:
Groups with paid staff will need a "head person" (usually called a Chief Executive Officer or CEO) to manage the group's day-to-day activities. The board is responsible for appointing the best or most appropriate head person for the job. Once the CEO is in place, the board must also monitor his or her performance.
Further information about this role is contained in the Board-Staff-Volunteers section of the resource centre.
The board must ensure that the group has adequate resources to achieve its program objectives – and, on a more basic level, that it can pay its bills. This could include:
The board is the primary link between the community group and everyone else. It should represent the interests of the group to the broader community and filter the diversity of stakeholder views back into the group. These two facets of the board's advocacy role include:
All boards must hold meetings, and must do so as often as the community group's constitution dictates. The conduct of meetings is one of the most important issues the board has to face and we have therefore devoted an entire section of our help sheets to this topic. Go to the Board business section of the resource centre for more information.
More information about board self-evaluation is contained in the Better boards section of the resource centre.
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