Governance: It’s a Pillar of Success and Your Community Connector

Bylaws: The initial advisory board that helps a founder start a nonprofit should create bylaws, which address how the board is set up, how the organization operates and how it regulates itself. The organization should post these bylaws publicly. As a result, you have many fine examples of bylaws of similar organizations to study and draw from. More information is available from

Funders will look at the bylaws, and conforming to the bylaws is the organization’s legal responsibility.

The executive director relationship with the board: If you are founding a nonprofit organization, you are the one who recruits and builds the initial board, but after a transition period, you report to that board or to a more permanent successor board. BoardSource, a foundation-supported resource for nonprofits, provides this explanation: Forming the Nonprofit’s First Board. Much more detail on board roles and responsibilities is available from the National Council of Nonprofits.

Community connector: In addition to its legal responsibility for overseeing the organization’s budget and operations, the board represents the public’s interest in ensuring the nonprofit is serving the role it was formed to serve. Having the board include people who understand your community and mission will help you think through how to apply that mission throughout your operations. For example, if the nonprofit’s mission is to cover city government, what happens if a potential funder comes along and offers to pay for an expansion of coverage to the county or the rest of the state? Would that strategic shift be mission-aligned or would the expansion dilute the mission that other funders have supported? Thinking through such a decision is really hard to do alone and becomes easier with the help of a board rooted in your community.