Board Member

Your organization and its mission rely on the solid and steady leadership of board leaders like you.

As a board member, you play a very important leadership role within your organization. And your board leadership is a way for you to have a lasting, personal impact on an organization and mission that is important to you.

BoardSource is here to support you in your board service.

We believe in the power of boards and board leaders and work hard to provide resources and tools that will make your job easier. And that’s important, because board leadership is very different from the staff leadership roles with which most board members are accustomed. More specifically:

As a board member, you have a legal commitment and responsibility to the organization. Referred to as a “fiduciary responsibility,” board members — both individually and as a group — can be held responsible when things go wrong at an organization. This means that the stakes are high in terms of making sure that the board is taking financial and legal oversight seriously; something in which each individual board member is expected to be engaged.

Unless a nonprofit organization doesn’t have staff, the day-to-day leadership is provided by an executive director or CEO. The board works in partnership with the executive to set the overall strategic direction of the organization, but leaves the staff and operational leadership to the executive. This can be a challenging balance to get right, but is critical to the success of the partnership (and the source of a lot of board challenges when it goes wrong).

  • Board members must lead as a group.

Unlike staff leadership roles where a particular position may have individual decision-making power, boards have decision-making power only as a group. That means that the most effective board members know how to discuss and debate issues thoughtfully and respectfully, contributing their expertise and perspective as a part of a group decision-making process, and supporting the group decision regardless of the outcome.

Whether you are brand new to board service or have been serving on nonprofit boards for decades, BoardSource has resources and tools to support you in your role. This website is a great place to find what you need, including the following resources that may be of particular interest to you. Please visit the Topics and Resources and Solutions areas of this site, as well as our Store, for more.

Resources for Board Members

Ten Basic Responsibilities of Nonprofit Boards

Our all-time bestseller explores the board’s ten core responsibilities and puts them into the context of the governance challenges facing nonprofits today.


The Source: Twelve Principles of Governance That Power Exceptional Boards

The Source defines governance not as dry, obligatory compliance, but as a creative and collaborative process that supports chief executives, engages board members, and furthers the causes they all serve. This “little black book” has been inspiring board leaders since it was first published.


Mentor Your Way to Board Development

Mentor Your Way to Board Development A board mentoring program can have powerful results. Mentoring can help orient new members, promote individual and organizational learning, and prepare for leadership succession. It can also increase engagement, […]

Reimagining Boards for High Impact

101| Community resource. What if leaders could grow their impact without growing their organizations? Read six primary areas where boards can focus their energy to strengthen community relationships and dramatically increase their impact.

Eight Ways to Increase Your Board's Ability to Work as a Team

301| Community resource. Board work is, fundamentally, a collective effort, and it requires a unique kind of teamwork among members. This resource presents eight tactics you can utilize to increase your board’s ability to collaborate and work as a team.

Six Characteristics of Effective Boards

301| Member-only resource. After interviewing several hundred boards and chief executives and surveying over 1,000 more, researchers Thomas Holland, Barbara Taylor, and Richard Chait discovered six specific characteristics and behaviors that distinguish strong boards from weak boards

Five Leadership Transition Types

101| Community resource. When an organization faces a chief executive transition, the first step the board must take is to identify what type of transition the organization is facing.

Every Board’s Must-Have Documents

101| Community resource. Even the most organized, responsible, and amiable board needs to document its activities, internal rules, and processes. Here are the various documents to which your board needs to pay attention.

Checklist of Board Roles and Responsibilities

101| Community resource. Basic board roles and responsibilities are the foundation for a successful board. BoardSource has designed this checklist so you can quickly remind yourself of your key responsibilities.

Certificate of Nonprofit Board Education for Corporate Employees

All board members should understand the major building blocks of an effective board. This certificate program covers fundamental nonprofit governance concepts, including board structure and practices, the roles and responsibilities of board members, and financial and legal oversight.