One way to be sure that everyone on the board is clear on his or her responsibilities is to adopt a board member "contract." Not intended to be legally enforced, the contract outlines explicitly what is expected of individual board members, and how the organization will in turn be responsible to them.
This contract differs from similar documents in some important ways. While most board agreements describe board member responsibilities, this one also outlines the responsibilities of the organization to the board member. A key principle underlying this document is the board's responsibility is to hold the organization accountable to its constituencies and to the public. Just as important, the contract communicates core values about debate and disagreement, accountability, and board-staff relationships.
The board chair should sign two copies of this agreement for each board member. Each new board member should sign both, return one copy to the board chair, and keep the other for reference. Signing the agreements ensures that the board members will read them, and is a symbolic gesture about their importance.
Sample Board Member Contract
I, _______, understand that as a member of the Board of Directors of _______, I have a legal and ethical responsibility to ensure that the organization does the best work possible in pursuit of its goals. I believe in the purpose and the mission of the organization, and I will act responsibly and prudently as its steward. As part of my responsibilities as a board member:
1. I will interpret the organization's work and values to the community, represent the organization, and act as a spokesperson.
2. In turn, I will interpret our constituencies' needs and values to the organization . . . Read more