Best Practices: Governance

Note to Readers: Please be aware that certain words have particular meanings in this document:

  • “Must” is used to describe practices required by state or federal law.
  • “Should” is used to describe highly recommended practices.
  • “Constituents” describes people with a stake in the success of the mission, and may include members, neighbors, clients, board, staff, volunteers, and contributors.

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Role in Society   |   Governance   |   Planning   |   Transparency and Accountability   |   Financial Management   |   Fundraising

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A gospel rescue mission’s board of directors is responsible for prayerfully defining the organization’s mission and for providing overall leadership and strategic direction to the organization. Each mission board should: 1) Prayerfully set policy and ensure that the organization has adequate resources to carry out its mission; 2) provide godly, direct oversight and direction for the chief executive and be responsible for evaluating his/her performance; and 3) evaluate its own effectiveness as a governing body, as a group of volunteers, and as representatives of the community in upholding the public interest served by the organization.

“But everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way.” (1 Corinthians 14:40)
  1. Board Composition
    1. Gospel rescue mission boards should be comprised of individual volunteers who are committed to representing the best interests of the ministry and its mission.
    2. To ensure broad public participation, vitality, and diversity, board members should serve for no more than nine consecutive years.
    3. To allow for sufficient deliberation and diversity of perspectives, boards should consist of no fewer than seven individuals.
    4. To avoid conflicts of interest and help ensure equitable voting, individual board members should not reside within the same household.
    5. Boards must have a chair and a treasurer, and should have a vice-chair and secretary. No one should occupy more than one officer position in the same mission at the same time.
    6. If staff membership on the board is deemed necessary, inclusion should be limited to the executive director, who should not serve as the chair, vice-chair, secretary or treasurer.
  2. Board Characteristics and Qualifications
    1. Gospel rescue mission boards should strive toward board representation that reflects the organization’s constituents.
    2. Board members should be committed to the success of the mission.
    3. Board members should actively develop an understanding of the mission, ongoing activities, finances, and operating environment of the organization.
    4. Board members should value diversity and understand the role of participation and inclusion in the future success of the mission’s work.
    5. To demonstrate their personal stake in the organization, board members are expected to volunteer time, raise external funds, and make financial contributions to the nonprofit.
  3. Board Responsibilities
    1. Board members should be provided with a clear job description, orientation to the work of the mission and ongoing training, and should fully understand their roles and responsibilities to the organization and to the public.
    2. Board members should understand the content and significance of the mission’s financial statements and audit.
    3. Boards should hold quarterly meetings (at a minimum) and expect regular attendance of members.
    4. Board members are responsible for keeping suitably informed so they can actively participate in decision making.
    5. Boards should organize committees as needed to effectively structure their roles and responsibilities.
    6. Board members are responsible to make prayerful decisions in the interest of the organization.
    7. Board members are responsible for upholding the organization’s mission and using its resources wisely and in accordance with the law.
    8. Board members are responsible for fully understanding their legal and fiduciary obligations and carrying out their responsibilities in the following areas:
      • Planning
      • Policy approval
      • Annual review of the executive director’s performance
      • Setting of compensation structure
      • Fundraising
      • Financial management
    9. The board of directors, led by the board chair, should annually evaluate itself through a survey to the board members and a subsequent discussion of the results with an eye toward improving governance practices.
    10. Board members should receive no monetary compensation for their board duties other than reimbursement for board-related expenses.
  4. Bylaws
    1. Gospel rescue mission boards must establish bylaws that set forth how the organization will be governed.
    2. Among other things, bylaws should provide a statement of faith; describe the purpose of the rescue mission; detail procedures for acquiring, dismissing, evaluating, and rotating board members; describe board member qualifications; explain the board’s role in general and detail the roles of its officers; define any essential standing committees; describe the board’s relationship to the mission CEO; detail the role of the CEO; include a conflict of interest policy; include an indemnification clause; detail the process of dissolution; set forth processes for conducting board business; provide a mechanism for updating bylaws.
    3. Bylaws should be evaluated at least once every three years.

Resources for Governance

Board policy manual  |  Board approval policy  |  Board member recruitment policy  |  Policy for board approval of ED compensation  |  Board chair job description  |  Board candidate application  |  Board self-evaluation form  |  Full-board evaluation form  |  CEO evaluation form 1  |  CEO evaluation form 2  |  CEO job description  |  Sample bylaws 1  Sample Bylaws 2  |  Board conflict of interest standards  |  Conflict of interest policy  |  Article on conducting effective board meetings