FAQ: Executive Committee Responsibilities

Question: As a non-profit board member, what is my role as a member of the Executive Committee?

Answer: Non-profit boards are traditionally served by an all-volunteer board of directors who bring the “Three ‘W's": Work, Wealth and Wisdom in service to their chosen cause.  Board members bring their passion for the mission of the organization they serve and are willing to physically work or volunteer on projects or engage in programs.  Board members often participate in fundraising activities and on board donation projects, and/or provide access to individuals and corporations with the necessary wealth able to fund the organization. Board members are also called upon to provide their wisdom, skills, talents or knowledge of issues addressed by the mission of their respective organizations.  

While serving on their chosen board of directors, board members may be asked (and should be prepared to) serve in a leadership role for the board.  Traditionally, four positions make up the Executive Committee of the board: the President (Chair), Vice-President (Vice-Chair), the Treasurer, and the Secretary.  All fulfill a vital role and function in maintaining organizational structure and process.  The Executive Committee is a basic governance structure of non-profit boards that provides leadership service to the board, and they may meet more often than the full board and direct or report to ad hoc committees or working groups as necessary. Here are the basic job descriptions of each member of the Executive Committee:

President: sometimes referred to as the Chairperson or the Chair, is the highest officer of an organized group or a board of directors. The Chair is typically elected, but can be appointed by the members of a board. The chair often calls meetings, organizes or creates meeting agendas, presides over board meetings and conducts board business in an orderly fashion.   Outside of meeting duties, the Chair often acts as the voice or face of the organization, acts as a formal point of contact or a media representative to the outside world and can be the primary spokesperson.

Vice-President: A VP, or Vice-Chair, is second in line to the top position of a board of directors.  The Vice-Chair is sometimes chosen to assist the chair with official duties and to serve as chair in the absence of the chair, or when a motion involving the chairman is being discussed.  The Vice-Chair often assumes the Chair duties as the predetermined term of Chair expires or the top seat is vacated.

Treasurer: Many non-profits nominate and elect or appoint a treasurer, responsible for the “conservation of the treasury.”  The treasurer often works closely with non-profit staff to understand income and expenditure cycles, profit and loss statements, and quarterly and year-end balances to assure the organization remains both fiscally sound, while meeting mission goals and objectives.  The treasurer is expected to review the budget and report at board meetings the financial status of the organization, ensuring checks and balances. A treasurer is expected to assure accurate records and supporting documentation is kept to a reasonable level of detail, through standard accounting BMPs, providing a clear audit trail for all transactions.  The treasurer also acts as a “financial conscious” of a board of directors in its efforts to be fiscally responsible through its fund raising efforts.

Secretary: Often an administrative board position accounting for minutes of each board meeting.  Taking the minutes (notes) of board meeting agendas, actions, discussions, decisions and conversations are transmitted to the board for approval either prior to or at the beginning of the following called board meeting.  Minutes can be amended as approved by the board to assure an accurate history of actions, decisions and serve as the critical “institutional memory” of board and organizational history.

Lastly, for all Executive Committee positions, a succession plan needs to be in place to assure new leadership, recruited from the board, is ready, willing and able to fulfill the roles of Executive Committee members as their terms of service expire, or should they need to resign from the board.  This succession plan can be addressed by knowing each position advances upward in order of service, or that the Vice-President knowingly assumes the President position once the term of office is fulfilled while the Treasurer and Secretary advance and replace one of their positions.  Often, boards informally ask for volunteers from the board, or actively and formally recruit members who show strong interest and activity in the organization mission, programs and outreach efforts.  We should not expect volunteer board members, or the Executive Committee for that matter, to be full-time authorities on programmatic, financial and managerial issues or to commit to more and longer meetings. The organization’s executive and staff must share at least as much enthusiasm and ownership of the mission and programmatic work as does the board, and perhaps even more because they bear the primary responsibility for implementing it.

Knowing that non-profit board service is a great way to provide volunteer service to your community or to an issue for which you have a passion, log on, search, talk to friends, seek your passion and volunteer as a board member.  While serving, provide your leadership to the Executive Committee to better your worthwhile cause, serve others, make your chosen organization stronger and the world a better place. Be a role model for others who, in their time, will serve in a leadership capacity.  Be a non-profit board leader, serve others, and serve for good!

Glenn Dowling
Executive Director
Georgia River Network