DGMT NGO Commons - A Resource for Enhancing Good Governance and Accountability

A Resource for Enhancing Good Governance and Accountability

Recruiting Board Members

The composition of an organisation’s Governing Body, such as a Board, varies enormously across organisations depending on how the organisation was established, its structure, its number of members, and so forth.

But, there are generally four positions that exist in all boards:

  • the Chairperson, who oversees the functioning of the Board;
  • the Vice-Chairperson, who supports the chairperson;
  • the Treasurer, who oversees the organisations finances;
  • the Secretary, who prepares and maintains all official board documents pertaining to the organisation.

Very often, the organisation will establish small sub-committees who will hold responsibility for specific tasks or projects.

Recruitment and Induction

New Board members – who have not been part of the establishment of the organisation – are generally orientated through an informal induction process. It is very important that they become familiar with

  • the organisation’s vision, goals and objectives
  • the legal and tax status of the organisation
  • the financial systems and practices of the organisation, as well as the status of the organisation’s finances, at the time of joining
  • human resources and remuneration practices
  • any contractural agreements that are in place with outside stakeholders. Board members will often ask to meet with long-term partners.

Skills and attributes of Board Members

When recruiting Board Members, it is important to think about the skills, attributes and expertise that people bring, and be clear about how this will add value to the work and/or functioning of the organisation.

Diversity is an important consideration. People of different races, genders and ages bring different insights, which are important for ensuring objective decision making processes by the Board. Similarly, a person from the community in which the organisation works will bring a particular understanding and experience of particular challenges and issues that community members face. It could be hugely valuable for the Board to have access to such insight.

What is required of Board Members?

At a practical level, organisations need to be certain that they can rely on Board Members to

  • attend Board meetings regularly; as a general rule these will happen four to six times per year;
  • read all documents before the meeting; it is critically important that Board members receive these documents well in advance to give them adequate time to read it. Documents will usually include a management and financial report as well as background summary of any other important issue that needs to be discussed or agreed upon.
  • be willing to use their time, skill, influence and contacts to garner support for the organisation and its work, and thereby, ensure its long-term sustainability.

Remuneration of Board Members

Board members of NGOs are generally not paid for their services. In some instances, they receive a small stipend, but this usually only intended to cover their travelling cost to and from Board meetings.

What do donors expect from a Board?

It is important to remember that NGOs are established for a public purpose and benefit. The Board, therefore, has to report to the public – as well as to the donors who support the work of the organisation – on the organisation’s successes and failures. But, having oversight of the organisation and its activities, also places the Board in an strong position to reflect regularly on whether the original intent of the organisation remains relevant and warrants ongoing support.