The second tenet of the Donor’s Bill of Rights:
“…to be informed of the identity of those
serving on the organization’s governing
board, and to expect the board to
exercise prudent judgement in its
stewardship responsibilities”

(other tenets here…)

The governing board of a nonprofit organization serves a number of key functions, not the least of which is oversight. Under the best of circumstances, the board serves as a check on the organization’s leadership, making certain that critical functions are being carried out according to the mission. With regard to mission, the board plays a central role in both safeguarding it and reshaping it when needed. The board is also both legally and financially responsible for the organization, and it has a responsibility to ensure that any gifts made to it are used in accordance with the purposes for which they were given.

Put simply, a governing board can either make or break an organization. A good board will ensure the continued success of the institution across time and changing circumstances. A bad board, however, can run an organization into the ground, sometimes overnight, never to rise again. For these reasons, it is imperative that boards operate with both competence and integrity.

The Donor’s Bill of Rights recognizes this to such a degree that it calls for organizations to communicate openly about who is serving at any given time, and it demands that boards act responsibly. Donors can only evaluate an organization’s ability to operate ethically if they have reasonable access to information about who the leaders are, and their operational track record.  As noted above, a bad board can sink the cause and donors do not want their money wasted on a dying organization. No one wants to donate for new water goblets on the Titanic.

Another reason organizations need to be open about who serves on their boards is that philanthopy—like it or not—can sometimes have an ugly political side to it. There may be instances where a prior relationship exists between a board member and a potential major donor that could put any gift that individual makes in a bad light. From that standpoint, communicating the identity of board members to donors is just good stewardship.

The flip side to that proverbial coin is that openness about the board’s identity can sometimes foster even better relationships with both current and future donors. High profile board members with excellent reputations says a lot about an organization’s commitment to managing funds wisely and operating with integrity. This breeds trust, and trust is what brings in the money.

Question: How do the organizations you support communicate the makeup of their boards? What, if anything, do you wish they would do differently in this regard? Leave a reply below.

*See more Donor Bill of Rights-related posts here...

Posted by Mark Zobel PhD, CFRE

I help nonprofits accomplish their missions and achieve their visions for a better world through donor-centered fundraising and comprehensive development work.


  1. […] To be informed of the identity of those serving on the organization’s governing board, and to expect the board to exercise prudent judgment in its stewardship responsibilities. [More…] […]


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