A nonprofit board usually has a president, treasurer, and secretary. While the president guides the overall direction, and the treasurer focuses on the budget, the secretary is responsible for keeping the organization’s operations running smoothly.
Let’s talk about the 3 responsibilities of the board secretary of a nonprofit:
Expert on Board Procedures and Bylaws
The board of directors guides a nonprofit on fundraising, governance, and budgeting questions.
Board members all bring their experience and expertise to the table, but the board secretary is a particular role that is selected or nominated.
The board secretary is the expert on board procedures, best practices, and accurate record-keeping.
The secretary is also the expert on the nonprofit’s bylaws, which serve as a roadmap for how the nonprofit operates. It is important to check your state’s requirements for whether your nonprofit is required to have bylaws. If new state or federal laws are passed that apply to the organization, the board secretary should understand how it affects the nonprofit and the board.
Meeting Agenda and Meeting Minutes
At board meetings, a lot of important decisions and updates are made. To have an efficient meeting, the agenda has to be created and shared ahead of time. The board secretary collects and consolidates all discussion topics from board members and nonprofit staff, and creates a comprehensive meeting agenda.
Depending on the nonprofit size and organizational structure, the board secretary may also be responsible for sending reminders to board members about upcoming meetings.
The secretary sends the meeting agenda and any necessary documents to be reviewed before the meeting.
During the meeting, the board secretary takes notes to accurately record the meeting’s decisions. Taking notes while listening is not an easy task for everyone, so your board secretary should be quick to write or type as the conversation is happening.
The notes must be clear and precise, and attempt to be as unbiased as possible, because the meeting minutes serve as the official record for the nonprofit board. The meeting minutes are also crucial for absent board members to stay informed.
If the board secretary must speak or present during the meeting, there should be someone else to temporarily take over taking meeting notes.
After the meeting, the board secretary should send the meeting minutes to all board members to approve, within 48 hours so the meeting is still fresh in everyone’s minds.
The board secretary also serves as the board’s “historian” to ensure accurate records. All bylaws, reports, and any other required documents should be updated and stored safely.
The secretary is responsible for the nonprofit’s commitment to protecting sensitive or confidential information, because the minutes are considered official record and depending on the organization’s bylaws and state law, could be accessed or available to the public.
A nonprofit will often have years - even decades - of board meeting minutes. Maintaining accuracy and consistency of records is important to the board and the nonprofit.
Now that you know what a board secretary does, you can make sure your board seeks someone with the suitable experience and personality to hold this seat on the board.
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