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Coming Soon – New Name & Logo

We are excited to announce today is the first anniversary of the Alliance of Arizona Nonprofits + Arizona Grantmakers Forum merger! After many months of strategic conversations, meeting with hundreds of members and community stakeholders, and thousands of staff hours, we are thrilled to announce the next stage of our journey is almost here: our new name and logo will be officially celebrated at the 2023 UNITE Nonprofit + Grantmaker Conference from 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. on August 24 at Mesa Convention Center. The conference is sold out; however, a waiting list is available for anyone interested.

The week of August 28, we will launch our new name across our platforms. You can expect a change to staff email addresses and a new website domain. You will be automatically directed to the new website and emails will be forwarded to the new addresses from the previous and domains. Please read the entire FAQ below for more details.

Read the full merger announcement here.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why did the Alliance of Arizona Nonprofits + Arizona Grantmakers Forum decide to rebrand?

In 2022, after many years of collaborating, partnering, and connecting nonprofits and grantmakers, the Alliance of Arizona Nonprofits and Arizona Grantmakers Forum merged. With the merger, we can unleash the power of transformation throughout our communities. And we know that this new brand is the first of many transformative changes to connect Arizona’s most passionate givers to Arizona’s most impactful causes.

What is the goal of the rebrand?

The goal of the rebrand is to reflect the new focus and strategic direction of the new organization.

What does this mean for membership?

You can expect more inclusive membership models connecting members with more resources and benefits than ever before. Members will be appropriately informed of any changes to their membership, including benefits and investment levels, when these new options are announced in Fall 2023.

Will I need a new password to login to my account? Or to register for events?

No, usernames and passwords will not be impacted by this change. If you do not have a password or need to reset your password, please use the “forgot my password” feature.

Are staff emails changing too? Will my email get lost in the transition?

Yes, staff emails will be changing. No, your emails will not be lost. All emails will be automatically redirected to our new secure email. You will receive confirmation that your email has been forwarded and provided with the new contact information.

Please be patient with our team as we make this shift. There will be small details that will need to be addressed. Thank you for bringing them to our attention; your caring feedback can be sent to

Is the website URL changing? Will it look different again?

Yes, the website will be automatically redirected to our new secure domain. The website will have a new logo on August 28 and a new color scheme. The website content will be updated throughout 2023. To reflect the new organization and rebrand, a full redesign of the website is planned and will be completed by 2025.

Please be patient with our team as we make this shift. There will be small details that will need to be addressed. Thank you for bringing them to our attention; your caring feedback can be sent to

Volunteer Opportunity: Marketing Communications with the Valley of the Sun Early Childhood Association

Company/Organization Name:

Valley of the Sun Early Childhood Association

Position Available:

Board of Directors, Marking & Communications

Organization Mission Type:


Organization Mission Statement:

We believe all children have the right to a safe and accessible, high quality early childhood education that includes a developmentally appropriate curriculum; knowledgeable and well-trained program staff and educators; and comprehensive services that support their health, nutrition, and social well-being.

Position Type & Location

Remote, Phoenix, AZ

Position Duration and Time Commitment 

Volunteer Board Member, Ongoing, 4 quarterly meetings online, 5 hours per month.

Skillset/Experience: 50-year Anniversary 2024, Marketing, Social Media, Press Releases


Name: Mary Ann Biermeier

E-mail address:

Phone Number: 480.306.0542

Volunteer Opportunity: Marketing Communications with theValley of the Sun Early Childhood Association

Company/Organization Name:

Valley of the Sun Early Childhood Association

Position Available:

Board of Directors, Marking & Communications

Organization Mission Type:


Organization Mission Statement:

We believe all children have the right to a safe and accessible, high quality early childhood education that includes a developmentally appropriate curriculum; knowledgeable and well-trained program staff and educators; and comprehensive services that support their health, nutrition, and social well-being.

Position Type & Location

Remote, Phoenix, AZ

Position Duration and Time Commitment 

Volunteer Board Member, Ongoing, 4 quarterly meetings online, 5 hours per month.

Skillset/Experience: 50-year Anniversary 2024, Marketing, Social Media, Press Releases


Name: Mary Ann Biermeier

E-mail address:

Phone Number: 480.306.0542

Fresh Off Merger with Arizona Grantmakers Forum, Alliance of Arizona Nonprofits Looks to Expand Impact

Alliance of Arizona Nonprofits Debuts New Staff Structure, Enhancements to Executive Program and New Website for New Year  

Fresh Off Merger with Arizona Grantmakers Forum, Organization Looks to Expand Impact 


PHOENIX (date) — The newly merged Alliance of Arizona Nonprofits and Arizona Grantmakers Forum have implemented several changes and enhancements in the new year to expand the organization’s impact in the nonprofit community.  


In August, the Alliance announced that Kristen Merrifield, previously CEO for Alliance of Arizona Nonprofits, would become the CEO for the newly merged organization and Laurie Liles, previously CEO for Arizona Grantmakers Forum, would become the Chief Public Policy Officer & VP, Arizona Grantmakers Forum. 


As the organization prepares to rebrand this year to reflect the merger, it has also made several promotions and staff moves designed to spotlight areas that are a priority for the future. The recent moves include:  


  • Jennifer Purcell has been promoted to Chief Impact Officer, where they will help guide the organization’s programs, education, membership and development initiatives.  
  • Angela Palmer has been promoted to Vice President, Organizational Equity and Special Projects, where they will help guide the organization’s increased commitment to diversity, inclusion, equity and accessibility.  
  • Angelica Hernandez-Williams has been named Director of Rural Programs, where they will help rural nonprofits expand their impact throughout the state.  
  • Natasha Lopez-Rodriguez has been promoted to Director of Capacity Building & Education, where they will manage all education activities and capacity building programs. 
  • Erin Owen has been promoted to Director of Corporate & Philanthropy Member Services, where they will manage all membership-related activities, education, and affinity groups for grantmakers. 
  • Robyn Reyff has been promoted to the Director of Nonprofit & Partner Member Service, where they will manage all membership-related activities and networking for nonprofits and businesses. 
  • Maria Mejia has been promoted to Senior Marketing Manager, where they will manage all marketing-related activities for the organization.  
  • Corina Yeh-Hilliard has been promoted to Senior Member Services & Programs Manager, where they will manage the members services and programs teams’ activities. 
  • Lilly Gonzalez has been promoted to Senior Project Manager, where they will manage the cross-functional projects and ensure the organization is meeting and effectively communicating goals and objectives. 
  • Colleen Holman has been promoted to Executive Strategy Manager, where they will provide high-level administrative and strategic support to the CEO and Board of Directors. 


Additionally, the Alliance is expanding one of its key programs to help support leadership in the Arizona nonprofit community. The ONE program, for Organization of Nonprofit Executives, was created to bring C-Suite nonprofit executives together to network, learn fromone another and share experiences unique to their roles. This group had previously been focused in Maricopa County, but has been expanded statewide 


And, the Alliance recently launched a new and enhanced website, as well as a new learning management system to serve as a platform for its educational outreach. The new site and platform are designed to make it easier than ever for nonprofit professionals to make use of the resources provided by the organization.  

 “We have a lot of exciting initiatives and events coming up in 2023, and we are very pleased to have an exceptional team in place to help expand our impact,” said Kristen Merrifield, Chief Executive Officer. “We have worked diligently to identify the priorities that are most important to the nonprofits that we serve, and are focusing on ways to support them as effectively as possible.” 


The Alliance anticipates unveiling a new name and logo in the third quarter of this year. Additionally, plans are underway for the organization’s signature event, the UNITE Conference (formerly the ENGAGE Conference). The conference is the largest convening of nonprofit professionals in Arizona. Last year’s event drew more than 500 people, and the Alliance is expecting a jump in attendance for the 2023 event. More information on the UNITE Conference will be announced in the coming days.  


The Alliance is also preparing for the 2023 Arizona Gives Day, which will take place on April 4. The event was started in 2013 to connect people with causes they believe in and build a lasting, stronger spirit of philanthropy. Since its inception, Arizona Gives has raised nearly $36.4 million for nonprofits statewide. 


The Alliance of Arizona Nonprofits was founded in 2004 and is a trusted resource and advocate for Arizona’s nonprofit sector. Comprised of more than 1,000 member organizations across the state, both nonprofits and those in the community who support them, the Alliance is dedicated to furthering the common interests of Arizona’s nonprofit community. 


Merged in August 2022, the Alliance of Arizona Nonprofits + Arizona Grantmakers Forum will enable more impactful collaborations among philanthropic and nonprofit leaders. Arizona Grantmakers Forum members are part of a network of more than 400 philanthropy professionals from more than 80 member organizations across the state. This merger positions the nonprofit sector as a key partner with the government and business community to drive economic growth and build an equitable Arizona where all people thrive. 


For more information, visit 

Welcome to our new site! Here’s what you need to know to get started


Our new Learning Management System and Website is now live! If you visit our website at, you will notice some big changes to our navigation, look and feel, as well our learning management system where you will be able to find our upcoming events and on-demand library.

Unsure about what to expect or where to start? Please read our short Q&A below to help guide you as you get familiar with our new site.


Can I visit the new site now?

Yes. You will be able to visit our entire website, access our calendar of events, and many resources. If there is a delay, please bear with us as we are working on the back-end to get everything set up.

Will I be able to log into my account?

Yes, you will be able to activate and sign in to your account, update your profile, and view your membership status with the Alliance or Arizona Grantmakers. If you click on the button above, this will take you to our new homepage. Upon visiting our website’s homepage, you will see two buttons at the top right corner, Join and Login. Click the Login button and click Forgot Password. You will receive an email to the email address you have membership under directing you to set a new password with your organizational email and password. If you experience issues logging in, and had a login for our previous website, please email us.

Guide to Grants Online Login – Please note that if you have a GGO Account, your username and password will be the same for GGO as your previous login information.



Will someone be available if I need help?

Yes. The great thing about this new site is that we have teamed up with the best Tech and Website Development team to assist us from planning to implementation. Here are a few ways you can reach us with questions:

For General Inquiries:

1. Our Contact page offers a way to send us a message. Please fill in with your information and we will receive it and answer your questions in the order they were received.

2. For event- or registration-related questions, email us at: and we will be happy to assist you! (If you have registered for an upcoming event in our old system, we will be transferring your registration to our new platform, so no worries!)

3. For membership questions, email us at

For Technical Support:

Unable to login or having issues in the new learning management system? Email our team at You can also call (877) 602-9877. Our team us on standby to help you with your login and password questions and concerns.


We hope you enjoy our new website and learning management system as our entire team is so excited to share it with you in its entirety.

Please note: we may be experiencing a high volume of questions during launch day. We will get back to you as soon as possible!


Jennifer Blair, plans for retirement at the end of 2022

Dear Alliance Members, Partners, Friends, and Supporters.
After 26 years of impactful work in the nonprofit sector, I have decided to retire from the Alliance of Arizona Nonprofits effective December 31st of this year.
Since I began working as the first Director of Membership at the Alliance in 2006 and again when I was blessed to return in January of 2015, you all have been an endless source of inspiration and joy for me. For this, I thank you.
I’ve known many of you since the time I worked at the Arizona Community Foundation. We’ve laughed together, we’ve celebrated together, and many times, we’ve even cried together.
Watching you rise to every challenge and fight to create a better future for all of us in Arizona fills me with hope. I have learned something new every day and have made lifelong friends in Arizona and across the country through our sister associations in the National Council of Nonprofits.
I value the trust you’ve put in me and have treasured my relationships with you. In our effort to create a seamless transition, we have been working on a succession plan to ensure our partners and members continue to receive the same quality of care and support they are accustomed to
I am thrilled to take this moment to announce the transition and promotion of our very own, Robyn Reyff, my ‘partner in membership,’ who will take over my role. It was without question that we move forward with Robyn as Director of Membership, as our members have successfully and enjoyably worked with her since her start in 2020. Robyn is a blessing and, since she joined the Alliance, I have always been able to count on her.
I feel confident in Robyn’s ability to build on the foundation we have created for Alliance members, and I am happy to see how she has developed her relationships with our members over the years. Cheers to many more successful member programs and events.
You are the reason I show up every day, strive to do my best, and give 100{592f8c7c8c8b9ae4dc802fde18bb1ca44654f2582e5e375fbd59d148d420668f}. I will carry my love and admiration for every one of you, always. 
Don’t be surprised to see me at one of your future events.
Oh, and don’t ever forget! You are awesome! Keep it going…

Jennifer Blair

Phoenix Committee on Foreign Relations Exec. Dir. Receives 2022 City of Phoenix Global Citizen Award

Phoenix Committee on Foreign Relations Executive Director Receives 2022 City of Phoenix Global Citizen Award 

Tina Waddington, Executive Director of the Phoenix Committee on Foreign Relations (PCFR), has been named by Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego as the recipient of the 2022 Global Citizen Award. Waddington will be honored at The Mayor’s International, Phoenix Sister Cities’ Golden Anniversary celebration on October 22, 2022.


The 2022 Global Citizen Award recognizes Waddington’s commitment to PCFR’s mission of building enduring international connections that foster cooperation and understanding and increasing Arizona’s global prominence. Past recipients include ASU’s President Michael Crow and former Honorary Consul of Canada to Arizona, Glenn Williamson.

“Tina is a steward for scaling businesses and connecting talent with jobs that are rewarding for both employers and individuals,” said Mayor Kate Gallego. “Through her tireless and selfless commitment to the Phoenix community, we enjoy increased international investment and better dialogue in a changing global environment. I am pleased to congratulate Tina on recognition as this year’s Global Citizen.”

Commenting on her award, Waddington says, “Through effective international cooperation and collaboration, we can ensure Phoenix takes its place among the world’s leading global cities. I am honored to accept this award.”

PCFR is proud of Tina’s dedication to increasing Arizona’s international standing and her steadfast work to increase international connections and bring excellent programs to Phoenix”. It’s a well deserved honor for her to receive the 2022 Global Citizen Award.” said Claire Sechler Merkel, PCFR, President.

City of Phoenix Global Citizen Award

The Global Citizen Award is given annually to an outstanding individual in the Phoenix area who embodies the Phoenix Sister Cities’ ethos of global leadership, diversity, and international understanding.

Phoenix Sister Cities is a citizen diplomacy organization that fosters relationships between the residents of Phoenix and our eleven sister cities around the world to promote friendship, peace and prosperity. More information about the nonprofit can be found at

The Phoenix Committee on Foreign Relations

PCFR is a Phoenix-based nonprofit organization with more than 450 members with an international interest in Arizona and beyond. For more than 40 years, PCFR has welcomed a variety of distinguished speakers; U.S. and foreign ambassadors, cabinet ministers, policy-makers, economists, analysts, journalists, authors, renowned educators and heads of state. During the 21-22 season, PCFR hosted over 50 renowned speaker programs, providing our members and community with intriguing and intellectually challenging learning opportunities on international issues. PCFR strives to raise the level of international awareness in both public and private sectors in Arizona because of our belief that unbiased information leads to improved policy making.
Find out more at

Inquiries can be made to 

Opportunity for Professional Mentorship for Fundraisers

Are you interested in the 2023 AFP Professional MentoringrnProgram?

The application due date for 2023 mentees has been extended to Friday,rnNovember 18, 2022.

Now in its 27th year, the AFP Greater AZ Chapter’srnnationally recognized Professional Mentor Program is designed for professionalsrnnewer to the field (one to five years), whether you’re a young professional orrnmaking a mid-career change.

Over the course of a year, Mentoring Programrnparticipants will: –

  • Take workshops in various fundraising topics (annual &rnmonthly giving, case for support, capital campaigns, donor stewardship, makingrnthe ask, major gifts, membership programs, prospect research, special events,rnvolunteer management and more!).
  • Be matched with an experienced and certifiedrn(CFRE) professional mentor. 
  • Grow their network.
  • Plan and execute arnfundraising-related project for their organization.
  • Develop a solidrnfoundation for a successful career in the fundraising field.

The ProfessionalrnMentoring Program also offers an Advanced Program track for more seasonedrndevelopment professionals, ideal for those looking to make a change to a newrnspecialty or desiring a master-level understanding of one particular aspect ofrndevelopment. This track is a good fit for professionals with five or more yearsrnof fundraising experience.

This customized track will allow participants to:

  • Enhance and broaden knowledge and skills.
  • Be paired with a certified (CFRE orrnACFRE) professional mentor to help them through customized skill-building.
  • Grow their specialist professional network.
  • Participate in relevant classrnworkshops, as recommended by their mentor.
  • Start the path toward pursuingrntheir CFRE and publish an article.

Visit to learn more and apply, or contact Lauren Martich at (602) 395-3859 or

Fundraisers Band Together to Find Practical Solutions to the Giving Crisis

By Drew Lindsay | The Chronicle of Philanthropy | October 25, 2022

Perspective way to invest money. Hands with dollar sign coins around yellow light bulb over blue background

One day each month, scores of fundraisers from around the United States and even a few outside the country gather on Zoom at noon on the East Coast. Sometimes they are joined by experts — Russell James, for instance, the Texas Tech scholar who mines behavioral science for insights about giving. Most often, however, practitioners step forward to discuss practical solutions to the declining number of donors to charity.

These sessions — called “lunchtime analyses” — are the work of the Donor Participation Project, a community of advancement professionals trying to shore up weakening support for American nonprofits. Louis Diez, a 10-year veteran of fundraising, started the group in August 2020 with a Zoom call that featured maybe 30 colleagues and peers connected to him via LinkedIn. Within a year, he had 1,000 members and a grant from LinkedIn to build out the community.

Diez left his job as Muhlenberg College’s executive director of annual giving in May and now splits his time between the project and consulting, with gigs including work with Almabase, which creates software for community management and fundraising among college alumni. Today the project has expanded its offerings, attracting some 2,000 people. The monthly calls can include as many as 150 fundraisers, and there are forums dedicated to a single topic, an experimental effort to help groups implement new ideas, and a virtual conference.

Heather Thompson, an early member of the project, says members are testing whether time-honored fundraising conventions still work in the new giving climate. “We challenge ourselves and each other to preserve the best of what was and shake off the dust and be willing to try new things,” says Thompson, chief development officer for Norwescap, a social-service agency in northwestern New Jersey. “A lot of learnings and conversations center around not just the ‘why’ but around what can we do about it.”

“We read the reports. We see the data,” says Franklin Guerrero, vice president of philanthropy at the AARP Foundation and one of the first participants in the project. “Now we’re looking at what are the things at the microstrategy or tactical level that are really improving outcomes.”

Fraying Connections


Data stretching back to the Great Recession document the fraying connections between Americans and charity, resulting in what some see as a giving crisis. Rates of volunteering and giving have declined over the past decade, with experts finding explanations in everything from the shrinking middle class and declining religiosity to transactional fundraising approaches. 

The philanthropic world is throwing lots of intellectual firepower at the problem. Several national grant makers created the Generosity Commission a year ago and earmarked $2 million to efforts to “reignite generosity.” Next month, nonprofit leaders and analysts Nathan Chappell, Brian Crimmins, and Michael Ashley will release a book, The Generosity Crisis, that outlines how they believe declining support threatens the very idea of the nonprofit.

Diez, however, wanted to bring development professionals into a conversation about changes in fundraising to address the problem. He has focused on everyday donors throughout his career, which began with an internship at New York’s Lincoln Center, where he rubbed shoulders with Reynold Levy, its famous CEO and a peerless fundraiser.

Apart from stints with symphony orchestras in Baltimore and Knoxville, Tenn., Diez has worked in college and university annual-fund shops. He earned a business degree in college and found himself drawn to using technology with large sets of donors.

“I told my dad, who’s a professor in finance: ‘This is like you’re running live experiments every day,’” Diez says.

At every organization he joined, Diez found dollars donated typically increased each year even as the number of donors declined. This prompted him to consider challenges facing higher education broadly. The number of alumni has increased threefold in 40 years, he wrote in a 2017 white paper, yet any given institution’s capacity to build relationships with those individuals has remained the same. Annual-giving offices, he said, are too focused on “pushing out information without necessarily engaging in a listening mode.”

At Muhlenberg, Diez studied the work of the 10 colleges with the largest growth in donor participation over a decade to divine their secret sauce.

With the Donor Participation Project, he has broadened his study to the nonprofit industry and invited the fundraising field to join in. In that first Zoom session, Angie Thurston, a graduate of the Harvard Divinity School and now the co-founder of the Sacred Design Lab, discussed her research about how organizations can meet the needs of millennials seeking community. Most sessions focus on more nitty-gritty subjects — advice when buying technology, donor-experience mapping, automated marketing, and the like. 

Technology is a big part of Diez’s solution for the fall-off in donors, as it gives organizations the power to personalize communication and create relationships with infinite numbers of donors. Communications can be segmented and automated, with a fundraiser drawing on data about individual donors to customize as needed.

Boards and leaders are often reluctant to invest in donor engagement, Diez says, because their rock-hard belief in the organization blinds them to the fact that some supporters may not share such deep loyalty. That has to change. “There has to be awareness from the top that there’s a strong link between giving and engaged groups of givers.”

He adds: “I’d much rather have someone engaged with us as a nonprofit for 10 years without seeing a dollar than having them throw 10 bucks at us every five years.”

To flesh out practical applications, the project has begun to offer deep dives into specific topics such as marketing automation. Diez recently put together a four-part forum with officials from the USO, Make-a-Wish, and other organizations to teach how to use video games and e-sports in engagement and fundraising — a strategy to connect with young adults. A group of fundraisers with the project are doing pro bono work to help raise funds for the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Park in Corvallis, Ore., through a “welcome” series of communications for new donors. Others are developing training for volunteers and board members of T1International to discover and qualify donor prospects.

Both are pilot efforts. Eventually, Diez hopes to expand such task-specific consulting and pay its members to advance successful donor-participation strategies.

‘Trusted Friends’


Norwescap’s Thompson discovered Diez before the project began, when he and others were discussing fundraising challenges and sharing ideas on LinkedIn. She was impressed with the thoughtful dialogue designed to help everyone in the conversation.

”They were freely sharing what they learned — what they had tried, what had worked, what didn’t work,” she says. “It was so refreshing and inspiring.”

Thompson also has benefited from meeting fundraisers in the project from other social-service organizations. Each monthly gathering includes breakout sessions where individuals who work on the same causes meet to discuss the day’s topic and their daily challenges. The 15 or so fundraisers in the social-service group also swap ideas on LinkedIn at other times and ask for problem-solving help.

They have become a go-to resource for Thompson, who’s building Norwescap’s first fundraising operation. “There are people I’ve never met in person, but they’ve become trusted friends and colleagues,” she says. “They became my sounding board on how to build a culture of philanthropy within the organization.”

Click here for link to original article.

What Nonprofit Boards Need to Do to Protect the Public Interest

Mature businesswoman leading team meeting in conference room

The people who serve on a nonprofit’s board of directors are legally responsible for its performance. Despite their importance, board members are rarely in the news. When they do make headlines, they may have messed up.

Perhaps the most spectacular example is what happened to Donald Trump’s now-defunct charity. While he was a sitting president, Trump was forced to dissolve his foundation and pay $2 million to other causes after New York state authorities found that the Trump Foundation had violated numerous state and federal laws.

Among other lapses, his foundation inappropriately coordinated with his political campaign and engaged in self-dealing – using charitable money for his own personal benefit. In addition, state authorities determined that the foundation’s board members had failed to fulfill their duties.

In fact, that board allegedly hadn’t even held a meeting for two decades.

Fortunately, such cases are rare. But as a nonprofit management professor, I find that extreme tales of board failure can help illustrate what boards are actually supposed to do and why it’s so important to get it right. Public trust in charities is at stake.

Doing More Than the Minimum


To perform their jobs at a minimal level, boards of directors have to meet legal requirements, such as convening at least once a year and supervising an organization’s top leader.

But board members must do more than that if they are to meet the expectations of the donors, volunteers, staff, and other stakeholders of the nonprofit they oversee. Let’s call these the “necessary” versus the “legal” obligations. While nonprofits’ tax-exempt status requires them to show the public they perform some community benefit, stakeholders who are supporting the organization may demand more.

Fortunately, board members can turn to organizations like the Council of Nonprofits and other sources trusted by expertsfor excellent guidance. Let’s take these expectations one by one.

The Basics


Most states require nonprofit boards to include at least one to three people. Experts believe that groups make better decisions than individual people.

So donors are wise to insist that any charity they fund have more board members than the minimum for better oversight. Larger boards — but not too large — perform better. Most have somewhere between eight and 14 members; newer organizations may have fewer.


Nonprofit boards that do more than the law requires are more likely to succeed.

There are an estimated 1.5 million registered nonprofits in the United States., with staffs that may range from a single unpaid founder to thousands of employees. These groups carry out a dizzying array of missions, ranging from community health care to boosting support for national parks.

Because of that diversity, experts will never agree on a single job description for nonprofit board members. Nor would they agree on a single recipe for who should sit on a board, although experts think nonprofits should pay more attention to diversity and representation.

Nonprofit boards typically recruit people who can represent the people served and who bring a range of skills and expertise in such areas as finance, communications, and management, along with a connection to the organization’s mission. Most nonprofits also expect board members to make a meaningful financial contribution to the organization themselves.

Although it’s legal for nonprofits to pay board members, most are volunteers.

Care, Duty, and Obedience


Legal expectations of boards come from both the states and the federal government. For the most part, a board’s legal responsibilities fall into three categories: a duty of care, a duty of loyalty, and a duty of obedience.

Care means board members must meet regularly enough and provide enough oversight to ensure a nonprofit’s staff, budget, and other resources are furthering the mission rather than squandering its funds or diverting them to personal expenditures.

Loyalty means they must act in the organization’s best interest, rather than their own, avoiding conflicts of interest.

Obedience has to do with ensuring that the group follows all applicable laws and regulations while acting in accordance with its own policies and mission.

Those three obligations add up to what’s known as a board’s fiduciary duties.

These duties encompass most of what boards do: approve budgets and expenditures; ensure that audits are conducted; hire the nonprofit’s chief executive and set that person’s compensation; and ensure that required public reporting happens, such as submitting a 990 informational return to the Internal Revenue Service every year.

Nonprofit board members have many legal obligations.

Nobody’s Business


Unlike in the case of businesses, nobody owns a nonprofit.

Instead, nonprofits essentially belong to themselves. Since they are mostly tax-exempt, they operate under the distant supervision of public officials such as a state’s attorney general. The board acts as agent of the state to ensure the public trust is not broken.

That’s why board members are often called “trustees.”

And on the rare occasions when that trust is broken, state officials will exercise their authority to step in, as they did with the Trump Foundation.

States set minimal standards for what boards need to do. Often, minimal compliance with those regulations does not suffice for an organization to thrive. For example, most states require boards to meet at least once every year.

Yet most boards meet five to eight times per year, since nonprofit experts agree that multiple meetings are needed to keep board members sufficiently informed and engaged. Additionally, regulators don’t require a conflict-of-interest policy, but stakeholders would be wise to do so.

Board Cultures


A board’s structure — how big it is and how often it meets — is fairly easy to observe and measure. But what matters more is how the board behaves. How boards do their work is at least as important as what they do.

I’ve identified three kinds of cultures that help a board stay focused on what matters: a culture of learning, a culture of assessment, and a strategic culture.

First, boards have to be willing to learn how to govern well, such as through training themselves. One common practice is an orientation for new members.

Members also need to assess not only the organization’s financial health but the health of the board itself. Although a board self-assessment is a recommended practice, since it ensures board members understand their job, it is practiced by only four out of 10 nonprofits.

Finally, boards need to devote sufficient time to planning for the nonprofit’s future. Strategic boards that do this may in turn support organizations that are more resilient — such as those that can withstand crises like the Covid-19 pandemic.

As for who can serve on a board, the honest answer is that just about any adult can. I would encourage anyone who is passionate and knowledgeable about a cause to look for leadership opportunities on a nonprofit board. If you have children enrolled at a school, how about becoming a member of its PTA board? If you enjoy shopping for fresh produce, perhaps you can join a board that manages your local farmers market.

Just be ready for the legal responsibility of being a trustee.

Editor’s note: This article is part of a partnership the Chronicle has forged with the Conversation and the Associated Press to expand coverage of philanthropy and nonprofits. The three organizations receive support for this work from the Lilly Endowment. This article is republished from the Conversation under a Creative Commons license.