Providing effective governance of your nonprofit is more than simply overseeing operations. Boards are charged with setting the course for their NFP and providing strategic planning, decision making, accountability and transparency of processes. No matter how worthy your cause may be, or how eager your staff and volunteers are to help, most nonprofits will struggle to make a real difference without effective governance from their boards.

The following tips can help your board members provide better oversight and governance for your NFP.

Clarify Roles and Requirements

No one is really a natural born board member, it takes training, and much practice for individuals to learn how to be a productive member of the board. NFPs can shorten the learning curve by providing boards with handouts and other materials that go into the details about the roles and responsibilities of each board member.

When clarifying procedures, it’s a good idea to go over potential areas of conflict, such as what constitutes a conflict of interest and how to avoid it. The delegation of authority and protocols for decision making should also be explained to new board members at the start of their term.

Increase Board Diversity

Your NFP board is responsible for the overall performance of your organisation, which means that members need to be able to draw upon a wide range of knowledge, skills and expertise. Having a diverse board provides NFPs with the benefit of different perspectives that can help the board to be able to see problems, and potential solutions, from a broader range of possibilities.

Depending on your board’s composition, you may need to offer specialized training to help fill in any gaps in expertise. If your board lacks members with specific skills, such as legal, financial and fundraising experience, be aware that your NFP will need to bring in outside help to ensure that they have all the bases covered when its time to create strategic plans and make executive decisions.

Culture Plays a Role in Creating a Clear Vision for the Future

Boards are responsible for setting the direction, but, they are also responsible for the way that organisation acts as it works towards its goals. Since NFPs operate for the public good, boards must actively work to create a culture of integrity and high ethics. At a minimum, your board should have a formal code of conduct that details how board members, and the entire organisation, will interact with one another and other stakeholders.

Transparent and Accountable

Boards should work to increase transparency in the NFPs operations, especially as it relates to their financial management, performance, and decision-making processes. To accomplish this, it is a good idea to put controls in place when it comes to the handling of cash and other procedures. Board members should receive regular reports about the current state of the NFP’s finances along with frequent updates about its overall performance. These reports should be in a format that is easy for others to understand, and, the information should be made available to donors and other stakeholders.

Don’t Forget to Manage Risk

Managing risk requires more than taking out an insurance policy to help protect the NFP in the event of a lawsuit or significant loss. In addition to insuring against loss, boards should actively include risk management in their strategic planning and oversight activities. The board’s overall goal should be to reduce the chance of any loss of assets or information occurring, whether it’s due to a natural event, security breach, data loss, physical threat or due to the consequences of the actions of someone empowered to act on behalf of the nonprofit.