Your Board Manual: A Training Tool and a Permanent Resource

The Board Manual plays a key role in Board Orientation and Training, but it should also be an ongoing resource for members. Board members are often reluctant to fulfill their roles because they don’t feel knowledgeable about the organization they have agreed to serve. These are your highest level volunteers who are making a commitment to assist in the overall accomplishment of your mission. A well-designed manual will provide the basic information they need to be empowered to take action on behalf of your organization.

Your Board Manual should be a living document that reflects current circumstances. As policies, key staff, or processes change be sure to update those pages in hard copies and/or electronically. Assign a staff member the role of making changes as needed and sharing updates with Board Members.

How should your manual be distributed? Hard copy or electronically? This is an organizational decision and, for security reasons, you probably don’t want to simply email it. Depending on your culture, it may make sense to provide a hard copy but also have a protected page on the website with an electronic version. If providing electronically, make sure it is optimized for mobile platforms.

Why do board members need a manual?
Know the people — List of all board members, their terms, and their contact information; a list of staff; an organizational chart
Know the responsibilities — Description of board member responsibilities; job descriptions of the officers; all committee description and a list of members
Know the legal framework — Articles, bylaws, Form 990, board-related policies, liability insurance
Know the organization — A short organizational history, highlighting the key historical events; mission statement; fact sheet about the industry

Sample Table of Contents

  1. History of the Organization and Current Annual Report
    • Board Roster
    • Agendas & Minutes
      • include most recent
      • 3 hole punch agendas for meetings to add to binder
      • include events and meeting dates
  2. Core Corporate Documents
    • Articles of Incorporation and Bylaws
    • Tax-Exempt Status – IRS
    • Tax-Exempt Status – State
    • Mission, Vision, Tag-line, logo
  3. Board Member Policies to sign and return
    • Conflict of interest disclosure statement
    • Code of Ethics for Board Members
    • Expectation Policy
    • (Also included: Emergency contact information sheet for board members)
  4. Description of Programs and Services
    • Strategic Plan
    • Project info if they are in a campaign
  5. Staff Profile
    • Organizational Chart
    • Volunteers: How the organization involves volunteers
    • Personnel Policy Manual
  6. Financial Overview
    • Current Budget and financial statements
    • Most recent Audited Financial Statements
    • Most recently filed Form 990
    • Revenue and expenses at a glance (pie-chart)
  7. Fund Development Resources
    • Case Statement & Messaging Matrix
    • Board Role in Fundraising/Donor Pyramid
    • Current Board Analysis
  8. Board Operations
    • Board of Directors’ Responsibilities
    • Executive Committee Function Committees – Brief description of each
    • Telephone Meeting Call-in Information and Protocol
    • Critical Corporate Resolutions and governance policies
      • Executive compensation policy
      • Full board review of the 990
      • Whistleblower protection

This information was presented at our May 2017 Kennari Consulting client round table.