If you are considering serving on your neighborhood association’s board of directors, there are a few basics to be aware of as a new board member. Former City attorney Dan Wichmer, who is now the executive director of Legal Services of Southern Missouri, offers free nonprofit board training to any registered neighborhood that requests it.
Legal Services of Southern Missouri (LSSM) is one of four legal services organizations in Missouri funded primarily by the Legal Services Corporation (LSC). LSC is a private, not-for-profit corporation created by an Act of Congress to ensure low-income people have equal access to the courts nationwide.
Wichmer says nonprofit board members are required to meet certain standards of conduct and attention in carrying out his or her responsibilities to the organization, he says, and anyone serving on a board should be aware of what that means for them.
“There are three basics that I cover in this training, and those are the duties of care, loyalty and obedience,” he says. “One aspect that I touch on in the training that is unique to the registered neighborhoods is that if they receive any funding or training from the City, the Missouri Sunshine Law (open meetings and records law) applies. As a registered neighborhood, you need to make sure you are retaining your documents, providing adequate notice of your meetings and have a bank account with updated signers on file.”
Duty of care
The duty of care describes the level of competence that is expected of a board member and is commonly expressed as the duty of “care that an ordinarily prudent person would exercise in a like position and under similar circumstances.” This means that a board member owes the duty to exercise reasonable care when he or she makes a decision as a steward of the organization.
Duty of loyalty
The duty of loyalty is a standard of faithfulness; a board member must give undivided allegiance when making decisions affecting the organization. This means that a board member can never use information obtained as a member for personal gain, but must act in the best interests of the organization.
Duty of obedience
The duty of obedience requires board members to be faithful to the organization’s mission. They are not permitted to act in a way that is inconsistent with the central goals of the organization. A basis for this rule lies in the public’s trust that the organization will manage donated funds to advance the organization’s mission. This duty also requires board members to obey the law and the organization’s internal rules and regulations.
Responsibilities of individual board members
- Attend all board and committee meetings and as many functions, such as special events, as possible.
- Be informed about the organization’s mission, services, policies, and programs.
- Prepare for board and committee meetings by reviewing the meeting agenda and supporting materials.
- Serve on committees or task forces and offer to take on special assignments when your capacity allows.
- Make a personal financial contribution to the organization.
- Inform others about the organization. Advocate for the organization.
- Suggest possible nominees to the board who can make significant contributions to the work of the board and the organization.
- Keep up-to-date on developments in the organization’s field.
- Follow conflict-of-interest and confidentiality policies.
- Assist the board in carrying out its fiduciary responsibilities, such as reviewing the organization’s financial statements.
- Wichmer can be reached at 417-881-1397 if your neighborhood association board would like to schedule a training session.