Establishing Governance for Your New Nonprofit: Everything to Know

Four people sitting at table having a meeting

What makes a nonprofit truly successful? Once you’ve formed your nonprofit strategy, solidified your mission, and are ready to get to work, it’s the people you bring into your organization that help it grow and thrive. What makes for a successful nonprofit is not only maintaining compliance, but ensuring that the organization runs smoothly from top to bottom, and selecting the right people, roles, and responsibilities to make it happen.

Nonprofit governance relies on the organization’s leadership and the practices maintained by the organization itself; decisions that are made by governing bodies are done with the intention to advance the goals of the organization and adhere to the mission statement’s elements. 

Direction and oversight are the core functions of a nonprofit’s board of directors, whereas its staff and volunteers manage the day-to-day activities. Below we will outline the titles and roles of key individuals that contribute to nonprofit governance practices, and when collaborating, help nonprofit organizations succeed on every level.

Who Governs Nonprofit Organizations?

When forming a nonprofit organization, one of the crucial steps is to form a solid foundation. Part of that step involves selecting a Board of Directors. A nonprofit organization’s board of directors makes key decisions that address the mission statement, strategy, and goals of the organization. They are the governing body made up of individuals who have diverse skills and a genuine interest in the organization’s success. 

An individual selected to be on the Board of Directors is: 

  • Well-connected to the community
  • Able to positively influence fundraising and provide the organization resources
  • Passionate about the organization’s mission 
  • Able to attend scheduled board meetings 
  • Skilled and educated in fields relevant to the nonprofit organization
Three females sitting at table with laptops having meeting

Common Nonprofit Organization Structure Titles

President: Responsible for supervising all business and organizational matters. The President is the primary contact point for the Board of Directors. 

Secretary: Responsible for documenting meetings, planning, and notetaking for the Board of Directors. The Secretary also makes sure that all of the nonprofit’s actions are conducted in accordance with the bylaws – an essential to good nonprofit governance. 

Treasurer: Responsible for tracking receipts and reimbursements. The Treasurer also oversees the organization’s financial standing. 

A board of directors is often composed of 3 to 50 members. Also, board members often form committees in order to efficiently oversee the organization’s operations. Some common committees are: 

Governance Committee: Responsible for governing the board of directors. This committee is also responsible for recruiting new board members. 

Internal Affairs Committee: Responsible for the organization’s finances. This committee is also responsible for reviewing the annual budget and reports, along with other financial matters regarding personnel. 

External Affairs Committee: Responsible for the outward communication of the organization – its community connection and publicity. This committee is responsible for fundraising and marketing.

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Nonprofit Governance Versus Nonprofit Management

Forming a nonprofit does not just rely on the existence of its board of directors. There are other important roles to be filled by individuals, too. When looking at the larger picture of nonprofit operations, the board of directors are responsible for governing the organization, whereas its staff and volunteers handle its management. 

The board of directors is responsible for a nonprofit’s governance by overseeing the organization’s affairs, handling large scale planning, and forecasting the nonprofit’s direction. 

Nonprofit management is handled by staff and volunteers. This covers day-to-day operations. These team members take care of regular activities that put into action the vision. These are the people helping drive the heart of your mission into the community or communities you are seeking to serve.

What Actions Do the Board of Directors Perform?

  • Apply for bank accounts
  • File annual reports 
  • Make important purchases
  • Fundraise 
  • Approve annual budgets
  • Set plans for organizational growth
  • Maintain meeting minutes 
  • Approve a CEO’s compensation and benefits 
  • Reviews IRS Form 990 annually 
People sitting in a row taking notes

Common Nonprofit Staff Positions

Chief Executive Officer / Executive Director: Works with the Board of Directors to make sure that the organization is meeting its goals. This individual works between the board and the organization’s staff. This position plays a large role in nonprofit governance.

Director of Philanthropy: Focuses on fundraising and sustaining revenue at the organization. 

Development Director: Focuses on long term planning and fundraising efforts. This individual is responsible for organizing projects to meet long term goals. 

Grant Writer: Works with other staff members, notably those in the development field, to apply for funding. They are focused on achieving annual financial goals. 

Outreach Coordinator: Promotes the organization’s mission within the community. This individual organizes events, recruits volunteers, and arranges activities to harness interest and excitement into the organization. 

Project Manager: Prepares and monitors project budget and workflow. This individual participates in crucial meetings with donors as necessary. 

Communications Manager: Responsible for digital content creation. They oversee communications programs and help build a positive reputation for the nonprofit organization. 

Compliance Coordinator: Responsible for supporting Project Managers when completing activities, audits, budgets, and reports. These individuals ensure that the organization is compliant on the local, state, and federal level. At BryteBridge Nonprofit Solutions, we partner with new and established nonprofits to help with compliance efforts to help make this part of nonprofit operations easier for everyone.

Director of Major Gifts: Manages fundraising events, communication with donors, and the donor database. This person focuses on implementing annual gift giving programs, or quarterly.

Establishing Nonprofit Governance by

Nonprofit Governance Isn’t a One Person Job

Forming a nonprofit organization comes with its challenges and obstacles, but securing a solid leadership base and team of trusted, passionate people who are connected to your mission will allow for rock-solid nonprofit governance.

BryteBridge Nonprofit Solutions offers expert advice and consultations regarding this very matter. Concerned about compliance, forming a board, or hiring employees? Selecting the right nonprofit organization structure titles is essential to completing your projects and activities effectively. Do not be intimidated by the flowcharts and applications that are piled in front of you – reach out to our team of experts today for a consultation at BryteBridge Nonprofit Solutions. We have worked with over 30,000 clients to help start, grow, and maintain their nonprofit organizations. Let us help you help others today!