Nonprofit organizations come in endless variations. They range from small, local homeless shelters to large, international trade associations; from community foundations operating within a geographic region to educational institutions that attract students from around the country. Their funding may come from just a handful of sources or from a wide array of charitable contributions, membership dues, government and private grants, fees from programs and services, and much more.
At Hand in Paw, a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization, we are a human services organization that just happens to utilize the unique skills of animals to improve the well-being of vulnerable citizens in our community. We provide Animal-Assisted Therapy and have done so successfully for over 25 years.
This blog is going to approach the role of a Board of Directors in the nonprofit world. I am writing to you as the Executive Director of a nonprofit, the Chief Executive Officer and, the person in charge. However, it is important to note, whatever the size, scope, mission, or funding of a nonprofit organization – they all have a governing Board of Directors who believe in and support its mission. As a member of a governing board, you have the pleasure-and the responsibility-of monitoring, overseeing, and providing direction for the organization’s pursuit of that mission. Those responsibilities, which have legal ramifications, will call on you to develop or hone your skills in numerous areas, from fiscal management to organizational communication and from fundraising to strategic planning.
HIP Board member, Trip Cobb, directing the "Fund-A-Need" at Picasso Pets 2021
HIP Board President, Todd Engelhardt, thanking Mutt Strut 2022 attendees
Board service is not for everyone. It is a commitment of time, talent, and financial resources. Boards meet regularly, review financial records, program reports, strategic plans, and fundraising efforts. The role of the board is distinct from the role of staff. The primary role for the board is oversight and guidance. Hand in Paw board members are resolute volunteers, who give their time and talent without compensation. They work closely with the ED and the HIP staff. At Hand in Paw, the staff’s primary role is management and operations. This positive relationship, between the board and the staff works because everyone has the same goal in mind – fulfilling the organization’s mission-and each has a specific part in it. The Executive Director is responsible for achieving goals within parameters established by the board. The board needs one person, the chief executive, to assume responsibility for getting the organization to where the board has determined it should be. The lines of accountability have clear guidelines, and all contribute to the success of the mission. The Board President manages the board with the support from the Executive Director. The Executive Director manages the HIP staff and is responsible for the recruitment and management of all Hand in Paw volunteers.
Board members help their nonprofit organizations be successful in achieving their mission by undertaking their responsibilities, being prepared to ask tough questions, and sometimes make complex decisions. Nonprofit organizations are an essential part of our society. No Executive Director can successfully perform their duties without the full support of the Board of Directors. This partnership is essential to the structure of Hand in Paw and the overall success of our mission.
HIP Board member, Melanie Lewis, and her husband Don and Abbie & Valerie Richenderfer with their completed 2021 Picasso Pets painting