How to Develop a Board of Directors for a Nonprofit in Alabama
A board of directors is a requirement for the operation of an Alabama nonprofit entity. This elected group serves as the governance of your organization in everything from finances to the nonprofit’s mission.
Electing the right personalities to your board of directors is essential for your organization’s success. This guide will help you select your first board or grow an established board to better serve your nonprofit.
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Alabama Board of Directors Requirements
The Alabama Business and Nonprofit Entities Code, Section 10A-3-1.02, defines a nonprofit board of directors as:
(2) The group of persons vested with the management of the affairs of the corporation irrespective of the name by which the group is designated. The board of directors of a nonprofit corporation is its governing authority as that term is defined in Chapter 1, unless the certificate of formation provides otherwise.
The number of required directors on the board is laid out in Section 10A-3-2.09:
(a) The number of directors of a nonprofit corporation shall be not less than one. Subject to this limitation, unless the number of directors is fixed by the certificate of formation or the bylaws, the board of directors may fix the number of directors from time to time. The number of directors to serve on the initial board of directors shall be fixed by the certificate of formation. Unless the certificate of formation or bylaws require an amendment to the certificate or the bylaws, the number of directors may be increased or decreased from time to time by the board of directors. No decrease in number shall have the effect of shortening the term of any incumbent director.
Putting It Into Practice
An Alabama nonprofit’s board of directors works as a support system for the organization. Its duties include financial management, structural guidance, the hiring of executive directors, and much more. While the board typically isn’t involved in day-to-day operations, it plays an active role in maintaining the well-being of the organization as a whole, its effectiveness, and its financial health.
A 501(c)(3) eligible nonprofit board of directors in Alabama MUST:
- Have a minimum of three board members
- Meet at least four times per year
- Introduce all new board members to the Standards for Excellence® code
- Elect the following officers: president, vice president, secretary, and treasurer
What Is the Function of the Board of Directors?
The Business and Nonprofit Entities Code, Section 10A-3-2.08 establishes the role of the board of directors in the following manner:
(a) All corporate powers shall be exercised by or under authority of, and the business and affairs of a nonprofit corporation shall be managed under the direction of a board of directors except as may be otherwise provided in this chapter or the certificate of formation. If any provision is made in the certificate of formation, the power and duties conferred or imposed upon the board of directors by this chapter shall be exercised or performed to the extent and by the governing authority as shall be provided in the certificate of formation. Directors shall be natural persons but need not be residents of Alabama unless the governing documents so require. The governing documents may prescribe other qualifications for directors. The board of directors shall have authority to fix the compensation of directors unless otherwise provided in the certificate of formation.
Putting It Into Practice
Before forming your Alabama nonprofit’s board of directors, it's important to understand the role this group plays in the success of your organization. The general responsibilities of a board include:
- Enforcing the Organization’s Mission and Purpose: The foundation of any nonprofit is its mission so a board’s chief task involves upholding that mission as well as the organization’s purpose.
- Hiring a CEO/Executive Director: While your board of directors plays an instrumental role in the success and effectiveness of your nonprofit, it doesn’t participate in the daily operations. That makes it vital for the board to hire a CEO or executive director who will provide effective, day-to-day leadership.
- Incorporating New Members: A board also must source and incorporate new board members capable of effectively upholding the organization’s values.
- Assessing the Allocation of Funds: Careful distribution of assets within an organization ensures all areas receive adequate funding and thus supports the success of each aspect of a nonprofit’s mission.
- Generating Funds and Ensuring Financial Stability: Alongside verifying the appropriate distribution of funds, the board also has a responsibility to generate more assets to create a solid foundation for the nonprofit’s long-term financial stability.
- Supporting and Evaluating the CEO/Executive Director: A nonprofit’s board of directors not only serves as a support system for the CEO/executive director, but also assesses their job performance.
- Ensuring the Organization Follows Legal and Ethical Practices: It comes as no surprise that upholding the ethics of a nonprofit is essential to its success in achieving its mission. In this case, the board’s task involves ensuring the organization consistently follows legal and ethical practices across its operations.
- Generating a Positive Public Image: Building trust within the community not only attracts private investors, but also develops credibility among community members who may use the services your organization offers.
- Acknowledging and Addressing Conflicts of Interest: The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) requires nonprofits to develop a written conflict of interest policy that the organization’s board of directors will enforce. This prevents any board member from using their position in order to serve their personal interests.
Additional Legal Responsibilities
In Alabama, a nonprofit’s board of directors also must fulfill certain legal responsibilities. The three most common legal responsibilities of an Alabama nonprofit include duty of care, duty of loyalty, and duty of obedience.
- Duty of Care: This involves making appropriate use of the assets held by the organization. Specifically, board members must ensure the use of such funds promotes the good of the organization and those who benefit from its services.
- Duty of Loyalty: This involves acknowledging and disclosing any conflicts of interest as well as making decisions that benefit the nonprofit as a whole rather than a single board member.
- Duty of Obedience: Board members also must ensure the nonprofit adheres to all applicable laws and regulations while operating under the mission and bylaws that form its foundation.
Developing Your First Board of Directors
If you’re still in the process of developing your Alabama nonprofit entity, choosing the right board members is key to ensuring the effectiveness and stability of your organization. Here are a few tips to help you get started:
- Solidify Roles. Designating functional roles for individual board members — outside of your elected officer’s roles — can improve the board’s overall effectiveness and functionality.
- Develop and Commit to Bylaws. Creating a set of bylaws to uphold the mission of your organization creates a strong foundation to guide board members’ decision-making. In addition, state law may require Alabama nonprofits to develop bylaws.
- Prioritize Your Mission. Another beneficial strategy when choosing board members is to seek candidates with a passion for your organization’s mission and goals.
- Acknowledge Any Conflicts of Interest. Conflicts of interest will inhibit a board member’s ability to effectively uphold the values and best interests of your organization. That makes it extremely important to assess potential or existing conflicts of interest when evaluating board members for your nonprofit.
Filling Board Vacancies
Vacancies in an Alabama nonprofit’s board of directors can be filled according to Section 10A-3-2.10 of the Business and Nonprofit Entities Code:
(a) Any vacancy occurring in the board of directors and any directorship to be filled by reason of an increase in the number of directors may be filled by the affirmative vote of a majority of the remaining directors, though less than a quorum of the board of directors, unless the governing documents of the nonprofit corporation provide that a vacancy or directorship so created shall be filled in some other manner, in which case the provision shall control.
(b) A director elected or appointed, as the case may be, to fill a vacancy shall be elected or appointed for the unexpired term of his or her predecessor in office.
(c) Any directorship to be filled by reason of an increase in the number of directors may be filled by the board of directors for a term of office continuing only until the next election of directors.
Putting It Into Practice
When electing new members to your Alabama nonprofit’s board of directors, focus on finding individuals dedicated to your organization’s mission. Here are a few tips to consider as you begin your search:
- Look to Your Volunteers. Volunteers who stand out can make excellent additions to a board of directors. These individuals already dedicate their time and energy to your organization and most likely will bring that same dedication and goodwill to your board.
- Explore Candidates Among Loyal Donors. Donors represent another group to consider when electing new board members because they create the financial foundation for your organization. That means they have a track record of dedicating time and money to ensuring the success and sustainability of your nonprofit.
- Expand Your Search. Diversifying your search to include outside groups can prove effective in creating a well-rounded board of directors.
What Are Elected Officers?
Section 10A-3-2.21 further outlines the election of officers to the board:
(a) The officers of a nonprofit corporation shall consist of a president, one or more vice presidents, a secretary, a treasurer, and other officers and assistant officers as may be deemed necessary, each of whom shall be elected or appointed at such time, in the manner and for the terms as may be prescribed in the nonprofit corporation's governing documents. In the absence of any provision, all officers shall be elected or appointed annually by the board of directors. Each officer shall hold office for the term to which he or she is elected or appointed and until his or her successor shall have been elected or appointed. If the bylaws so provide, any two or more offices may be held by the same person.
Putting It Into Practice
Elected officers are members of the board with assigned roles focused on regulating the day-to-day activities of the organization and maintaining its success. Each position should have a clear role defined in the organization's bylaws.
You are required to designate elected officers in Alabama. Elected officer roles can not only prove helpful in ensuring the effectiveness of the board of directors, but also provide a foundation of leadership.
The four elected officers for nonprofits in Alabama include:
- Treasurer: The treasurer is responsible for evaluating the financial health of the organization by keeping track of receipts and spending.
- President: As the leader of the board, the president commonly has authority over key activities like signing contracts and hiring or firing employees. This role differs from the CEO/executive director position, which the board typically hires after electing the president role.
- Vice President: The vice president serves as support for the president. In many cases, the vice president moves into the role of president after the current president completes their term.
- Secretary: This individual serves as the organizer of the board meetings, which may include scheduling the meetings, informing board members of the meeting schedule, planning the meeting agendas, and recording meeting minutes.
Forming a board of directors is an essential part of creating and operating a nonprofit in Alabama. Ideally, this group will advocate for your organization's best interests in everything from finances to public relations. To form or expand a board of directors that will best represent your nonprofit’s needs, search for members who will uphold your organization’s mission and purpose.