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Nonprofit board responsibilities

An organization’s directors and managers risk conflict, loss of reputation and even financial ruin if nonprofit boards don’t meticulously ensure their actions are responsible. Unfortunately, some directors and officers—many of whom are part-time volunteers—don’t fully understand the responsibilities and potential liabilities associated with their obligations.Nonprofits can take numerous steps to ensure both the organization’s board and its leaders understand their commitments and comply with them to the best of their ability. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Live, eat and breathe your mission. Nonprofits that keep true to their mission are more likely to engage in activities that support their purpose. For example, an article in Nonprofit Quarterly points out the discrepancy of nonprofit hospitals engaging in overly aggressive debt-collection practices—a clear example of losing sight of one’s mission. Keep your organization’s purpose top of mind by promoting it within. Displaying your mission on banners and mouse pads are great ways to reinforce it.
  • Nip unethical behavior in the bud. Responsible nonprofits must police themselves rather than wait for audits or investigations to uncover potential wrongdoing. Something as simple as establishing a hotline or text line where people can anonymously report misconduct may help avoid problems down the road. Imprint hotline contact details on a repositionable sticker or whistle key tag for easy employee access. Be sure your entire team understands that this type of proactive approach isn’t about mistrust—rather, it’s about protecting both the integrity of your organization and the people who work so hard for it.
  • Develop policies to protect and prevent. Policies communicate expectations, keep people compliant, and protect both organizations and the individuals who work for them. Once a policy is developed, you’ll want to share it throughout the entire organization—distribute it via the employee handbook, email, Intranet and corporate message boards. You may even want to hold an informational session for board members, managers and employees. Encourage open Q&A by offering cord wraps, cleaning cloths and mini chocolate bars as rewards for participation. Upon completion of your session, have employees sign a statement of understanding to ensure both comprehension and agreement.

Safeguard your organization’s purpose and success. Ensure your leadership and staff understand their obligations and commitment to compliance.

Fram, Eugene. “Nonprofit and Business Directors Must Be Vigilant — Board Liability Costs Could Be $2.2 Million!” The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, Inc., 05 Apr. 2015. Web. Retrieved 16 Aug. 2015.

Bowman, Woods. “Nonprofit Accountability and Ethics: Rotting from the Head Down.” “Nonprofit Quarterly.” N.p., 26 Oct. 2012. Web. Retrieved 16 Aug. 2015.

“HR Policies & Employment Legislation.” Hrcouncil.ca. N.p., n.d. Web. Retrieved 16 Aug. 2015.

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