Conference Teaches Board-Member Basics

Published in the Tallahassee Democrat, May 4, 2011
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While they may be driv­en by motivation to serve and dedication to commu­nity, volunteers on nonprofit boards must be prepared for their roles in directing their organizations’ activities.

A total of 180 board members from through­out the region attended the Building Better Boards Leadership Conference on Tuesday evening to learn the fundamentals and then some.

“Board governance is crucial to the health of an organization,” said Barbara Boone, executive director of the conference sponsor, Leadership Tallahassee. Sessions covered financial topics, a board’s duties and the key points of fulfilling a nonprofit’s mission. “For the people who are making the decisions about these things, it’s important that they get this training,” she added.

Bennett Napier, a prin­cipal in the firm Partners in Association Manage­ment, presented many of the basics for volunteer leaders, starting with hav­ing a clear mission in mind and goals for the group, as well as how volunteers are expected to contribute.

“If there is no clear-cut definition of what your role is in the organization, that’s when people get frus­trated with being a volun­teer,” he told his audience at Tallahassee Community College’s Center for Work­force Development.

Napier discussed the fiduciary responsibility that board members have for their nonprofit’s financ­es, how funds are spent, and the required report­ing. He also described a “duty of care” that means volunteer members keep up with board business, attend meetings, vote and address problems that may arise.

At the session on social media, attendees heard from a panel on how to expand an organization’s reach through Facebook, Twitter and other tools. Ryan Cohn of marketing firm What’s Next recom­mended building a follow­ing within the organiza­tion, but also adding others who want to join the dis­cussion.

Social media permits a form of two-way commu­nication, he noted. “It’s all about the right people, engaging them, and hav­ing a conversation with them.

For nonprofit execu­tives and their staffs, the 12th annual Conference for Excellence in Nonprofit Management & Leadership takes place today, a pro­gram of United Partners for Human Services.