Displaying items by tag: board leadership

Want to Start a Pregnancy Help Ministry?

Every day, in every corner of the world, God is moving His people to launch new efforts on behalf of mothers and children at-risk for abortion, as well as efforts aimed at healing those affected by previous abortions and reaching communities with positive pro-life messages focusing on imago Dei and Sexual Integrity.

Heartbeat International is here to support front-line life-savers carry out the unique call of God with excellence in real-life settings and circumstances. Through support and resources, Heartbeat is available to answer your questions and provide guidance as you journey down this new path. Just email our Ministry Services department at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and a specialist will connect with you.

Whichever ministry you decide upon, we recommend looking at some key resources to get you started on the right foot. 

Recommended Resources for Start-Ups:

Click any of the below to start with the information you need.

MSpregnancycenter MShousing MSmedical MSabortionrecovery MSsupport
Pregnancy Center Maternity Home Pregnancy Help
Medical Clinic

Abortion Recovery
Long-Term Care


Answering the call to reach, rescue, and renew men, women, and children—even entire communities—from the violence of abortion requires a team effort, with every life-saver pulling on the same rope.

Click one of the below to learn more about your unique calling... and what you can do to become best equipped on the front lines of the Pregnancy Help Movement.

executive director development Medical Board Volunteer
Executive Director Development Director Healthcare Worker Board Member Volunteer

Behold Thy Kingdom

by Jor-El Godsey

From Take Heart | Volume 2, Issue 11

final logoAs the season of Advent unfolds and the focus on the birth of our Savior sharpens, the reality of this Scripture, like a diamond held up to the light, reveals multiple facets.

Behold. Be aware. Observe. Consider. This is the first step for us. We must open our eyes to see what is already at hand. The busyness of our schedule, the volume o f our workload, the needs of the ministry all can conspire to crowd our vision and actually shrink our awareness of anything but the urgent. It may take a moment to step away from the inbox, set aside the volunteer schedule, wait to review the financials, and simply focus on what the Holy Spirit is doing.

The Kingdom of God is all that He is and all that He controls. Think about that for a moment. Where is He not King? To what places does His reign not extend? Perhaps there are regions of our hearts and issues that have yet to be yielded to His Lordship, but He is certainly present even there, just as He is present in our ministry and among His people.

Indeed, the Kingdom “is in your midst,” right where you are. Truly, the Kingdom of God is in the midst of your staff meeting and each shift of volunteers. The King is with you during your event planning and while you stare at the blank page that awaits your monthly appeal letter. The Holy Spirit is present when you see the red numbers on the financials. He knows your pain and your tears.

The kingdom of God is even there with you in a board meeting (whether or not every board member has read the reports in advance!). He often speaks through this group that is assembled for the care and concern of the work that He has inspired. Whether you’re the executive director, board chair, treasurer, counselor, or administrative assistant, He, and His kingdom, is in your midst.

Make room for miracles

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“God how can I do this?!”

When leaders look at the numbers, we are tempted to ask, “God, how can I do this?!” God’s answer: “You can’t, but I will!”

God is far more than our intelligence, skill, and experience. When we place our faith and resources at the service of God’s will, all things are truly possible . . . in God’s own time and according to His own plan!

Jason Upton gives powerful testimony to how God’s blessings outstrip our imagination and fulfill our hopes in ways that are far beyond the decisions we make “by the numbers.”

Watch Jason’s testimony on Heartbeat’s FaceBook page, July 7, Jason Upton's Testimony (at The Ramp)By Peggy Hartshorn, Ph.D., Heartbeat International President

From On the LeaderBoard Volume 1, Issue 2

As Christians, we are all stewards of what truly belongs to the Master. As faithful stewards, we invest the Master’s “goods.” With the time, treasure, and talents that He has entrusted to us, we produce abundant goods for Him. Good stewards rely on skill, as in the effective use of accounting knowledge and management expertise.

As faithful stewards in pregnancy help ministries, we use caution in administering God’s goods. Even more so do we rely on grace. The blessing factor is God pouring His grace into our hearts when we respond to His will. Our response allows this grace to spill into our works.

Yes, caution is necessary.  Yet, it’s easy to get carried away with statistics, numbers, and outcomes, losing sight of the heart and passion associated with the work of the organization.  Board members (and staff) can get bogged down in this responsibility. Board meetings can become dry and heartless!  Try to ensure that this isn’t the case, perhaps by assigning detailed evaluation work to a Board task force or committee.

Also, numbers don’t take into account the blessing factor.  If you are part of the leadership team of a Christian ministry, one way you know if you are on the right track is by counting the blessings that the Lord is bestowing on your work.  While this is most often not a category of the official reports, Boards and executive directors frequently talk about the blessings that have taken place recently, even miracles.  We know that the small, often bungling efforts we make could never, in and of themselves, result in the effects which we see taking place in the ministry.

The blessing factor at work:

A client walks out of a peer-counseling session, seemingly bound for abortion, but calls back later to thank the center and share that she has decided to parent her baby. . .  

An ultrasound machine picks up nothing but a pulsating dot on the screen (the heartbeat), but when the ultrasonographer reluctantly turns the screen toward the very abortion-minded client, she murmurs, “My baby. . .” 

The staff and Board pray for office space and someone calls to ask if the organization would accept a donated building in the perfect location.

Your Board no doubt has such stories of blessings that let you know that you are doing something right. That something you are doing right is constantly turning to the Lord in prayer and relying on the Lord, the real Owner for whom we work as stewards, as our source of strength and wisdom.

Don’t let the world’s way of evaluating completely overshadow the blessing factor as a measure of what you are doing right!


by Peggy Hartshorn, Ph.D., President of Heartbeat International



How many leaders are there in your ministry?

by Peggy Hartshorn, Heartbeat International President

From On the LeaderBoard Volume 1, Issue 1

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Is leadership an art or a science? Is leadership the same in the business world as it is in a Christian ministry?  Is there an essential difference in the way that a man leads vs. the way a woman leads?  Can a person learn to be a leader or is it an innate gift or skill?

Leadership is a complex subject and there are many opinions about the questions above, as well as many other deep, almost philosophical questions that can be asked about this subject. As I think about leadership within a pregnancy help ministry (a center, clinic, maternity home, adoption agency, or any other Heartbeat affiliated organization), one thing I can say for sure, however, is this:  even though one person may be seen by almost all as “the leader,” it is not a healthy situation when there is only ONE person in leadership. This may sound contradictory, but let me try to explain what I mean.

At Heartbeat, in our conversations, e-mails, and person visits to our affiliates, we have observed that often one person, most frequently the director or executive director (sometimes in larger organizations called the CEO or President), feels the entire burden of the organization’s success or failure. This person is often “called” to the position, sometimes is the founder of the organization but often not, is totally dedicated to the mission, is multi-skilled, works very hard, and is looked to by almost everyone else (both inside and outside the organization) as the key person. You might say, “Well, what’s wrong with this picture”?

If this one leader is, in fact, the only person exercising leadership within the organization, if everyone else is a follower, here are some of the consequences that we have seen occur:

  • The one leader will become disillusioned and discouraged and eventually burn out.
  • The organization will eventually stagnate, since one person can only grow an organization so far.
  • The one leader will squelch up-and-coming leaders, the very people who could take some of the burden and help the organization grow and develop.
  • The one leader will eventually be leading the Board as well as the staff and volunteers and the burden will become so great that things will begin to fall apart and become dysfunctional, even to the point of endangering individuals and the organization itself.
  • Eventually, the one leader may be forced out of the organization in a manner that is hurtful and leaves many people wounded.

Leadership, I believe, should be a shared function.  A healthy organization should have a team of leaders working well together. This team is really the “horsepower” of the organization. One of my favorite sights, living as I do in the state of Ohio where we have the largest number of Amish people of any other state, is watching a team of horses, driven by a gifted Amish farmer, plowing the fields. It is a thing of beauty to see how the farmer, with slight movements of his hands on the reins, keeps these powerful beings working in unison. I’m sure it is not as easy as it seems.  It takes a lot of learning and probably years of experience to steer such a team. If one horse is pulling too hard, he may be pulling all the other horses too!  If one horse is not in step, the work is much harder, and there can even be injury.

Who are all the leaders within an organization? Well, that depends on how large the organization is and in what stage of development.  But we can start with at least two in every organization:  the executive director (ED) and the chairperson of the Board.  Each has a sphere of authority in which to lead:  the ED leads the staff and most of the volunteers;  the Board chairperson leads the Board members and any other people who work with the Board (e.g. some Boards may work with consultants or have volunteers who work with the members on committees, etc.). 

If the ED feels like he or she is also leading the Board, something is wrong. Sometimes the ED mistakenly thinks that leading the Board is his or her job (it is not), or the ED begins leading the Board because no one on the Board has “stepped up to the plate.” If the chairperson of the Board is leading the staff and the office volunteers, something is wrong (unless you are in the start-up phase or an all-volunteer organization with no paid staff). Sometimes if the chairperson of the Board is leading the staff, it means that the Board has no confidence in the ED, or the Board chairperson mistakenly thinks it is his or her job to lead the staff (it is not).

The most common reason for NOT having both a staff leader (the ED) and a Board leader (the Board chairperson) is that the Board members do not understand their role in the organization. They may mistakenly think that they are in an advisory role and that their job is to be cheerleaders behind the ED, or simply “prayer partners” for the ED and staff.   They do not realize that there are LOTS of jobs that Board members should be doing and that they have a responsibility to govern the entire organization. These jobs and the govern responsibility are discussed thoroughly in Heartbeat’s Board manual called GOVERN Well™.  Also, Heartbeat consultants are available to come to your organization and provide a specific training for your Board members and ED on Board responsibilities and jobs.

If Board members do not accept their responsibilities to truly govern, the entire organization can be in jeopardy.  In fact, there is a state of organizational development called “Decline and Dissolution” and it is often caused by a failing Board. A Board often fails if and when a strong ED tries to lead both the staff and the Board, a feat that is humanly impossible to do well.

Let me share what a positive scenario looks like, when there is leadership at both the staff and Board levels.  At Heartbeat international, I am the overall leader, although we have many other staff leaders as well. Carla Cole leads the staff in fulfilling our strategic plan as effectively and efficiently as possible. Jor-El Godsey leads the Ministry Services team, and within that team, Betty McDowell leads all the trainers and consultants who work with our affiliates. John Ensor leads the Mission Advancement team whose responsibility is communications and fundraising.

We have a very strong Board chairperson, John Cissel, who leads a Board of 12 members, leaders in their own right, some of whom lead specific functions on the Board (such as financial oversight).

John Cissel (the Board leader) and I (the staff leader), although not living in the same city, meet frequently by phone, sometimes touching base several times a week , by phone or e-mail, to keep each other updated on what is happening within our spheres of influence. I don’t try to do his job and he doesn’t try to do mine. John is always thinking of ways to engage our Board members and help them use their gifts and skills to advance Heartbeat. 

Board members, in turn, often e-mail John or me (with copies to the other to keep both of us in the loop) with ideas or contacts that may help us or that relate to an issue or problem we are discussing at Board meetings. Our Board only meets in person twice each year, but three additional times by conference call. Yet, all Board members know each other well, know our staff, and are engaged in advancing Heartbeat and our mission. This is due to frequent communication between John, the Board leader and chairman, and Board members, and between John and me. John and I plan the Board meetings, and our annual two-day Board retreat, together. John conducts all the Board meetings and leads the Board retreat, but I have a central role in those meetings and in the retreat.

John frequently says to me, “The Board and I are here to support you and Heartbeat.” I feel and treasure that support and my partnership with John. I know that we are on the same team and are pulling together, a little bit like the two lead horses in that Amish farmer’s powerful team.   

John always opens and closes every phone call meeting with me with prayer, so we are constantly calling on the Lord to bless our time together, and to bless each other in our roles as, for the present moment, the two key leaders of Heartbeat International.

It should not go without saying that the leaders whom I have described here are the human leaders of the ministry. But, of course, the power behind these human leaders should be the Lord. In fact, we are powerless to do good without Him. We should be on His plan, not just ask Him to bless ours. All the leaders within your organization must first and foremost be close to the Lord, listen to Him, obey Him, and let His light shine through them to others. You do not want a leader in place who is not in this kind of relationship with the Lord. 

In work like ours that is, at its root, the struggle between good and evil, between light and darkness, the Devil will be working overtime to bring disunity and, even more so, chaos into our organizations. He loves to see us destroying everything good through our own sinfulness – through rivalry, jealousy, power plays, anger, impatience, control, competition – especially between and among the leaders of the ministry.  If we are wounding or destroying each other, we make the Devil’s job easy – our ministries collapse from the inside out. Guard against this with all your might and seek God’s protection and grace to carry out your leadership role in building His kingdom (not yours!).

Officers of the Board – The Secretary

by Jor-El Godsey, Heartbeat International Vice President

From On the LeaderBoard Volume 1, Issue 1

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Every Board has to have a secretary. Handwriting tests are not the right analysis for a good secretary. Unless, perhaps, if someone’s handwriting is so illegible even they cannot read it.

The secretary’s primary duty is to serve the Board in fulfilling its key responsibilities as determined by the state where your organization is incorporated. The basic functions of the secretary are relatively straightforward. The secretary records (or at least reviews) Board minutes, provides notices of meetings of the Board and/or of a committee when notice is needed and, probably most importantly, ensures the safety and accuracy of all Board records.

Yes, you read that right. It is the secretary, not the executive director, who is responsible to make sure the documents of the Board are kept safely and accurately. This includes any founding documents, (such as incorporation papers), bylaws, Board minutes, financial records (especially any filed with the government), official communications, and other Board records.

Generally such records are maintained at the office of the non-profit and the key executive is tasked with taking care of how and where records are stored. Such records should be accessible by the secretary and care should be taken to keep clean, hard copies and/or clearly versioned soft (electronic) copies. Some simple steps regarding file names and dating can serve to avoid confusion.

The secretary should be present at every Board meeting to capture official minutes. If not, then a temporary “recording secretary” is appointed to handle the task. That temporary recording secretary may or may not be a current Board member. In fact, some Boards take the step to officially appoint a non-Board member to be a recording secretary and free the official secretary to participate in the conversation. (A third option is to electronically record the entire meeting allowing minutes to be created even after the meeting.)

The secretary, by the charge to keep accurate records, is also the arbiter of Board member terms of service and proper standing of Board members (for voting). Since the secretary is the keeper of the minutes, he or she should catalog Board member information (names, elected terms of office, contact information, official start dates, etc.) for use by the Board. This responsibility can be designated to another Board member or officer (like the vice chair) but otherwise resides with the secretary.

It is common, especially in smaller organizations, for the office of secretary and treasurer to be a combined function. This may work for a very new and very small organization, but the complexity of the finances and the requirements of good record keeping can quickly overwhelm all but the most capable person unless that person has lots of available time. It is wise to split these two responsibilities between two distinct officers with the separate functions fulfilled by different individuals.

The secretary should always be mindful that he or she will turn all records, some day (and the records of prior secretaries), over to the next secretary. This knowledge should guide the secretary in organizing the key documents clearly so that the next secretary (and in fact current Board members) can reference the board records effectively.

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Today’s Terminology: Ex-officio

by Jor-El Godsey, Heartbeat International Vice President

From On the LeaderBoard Volume 1, Issue 1

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Quick question to an executive director, “Are you a board member?” No, she replied sheepishly, “I’m ex-officio. You know, I attend the board meetings but don’t vote.”

Directors can’t be blamed for this common misperception, namely that “ex-officio” implies non-voting attendee at the board meetings. Sometimes when this is asked of board members, they respond in a slightly hushed tone, “She’s ex-officio” as if the executive isn’t really the right status for such lofty honor.

True Meaning

Ex-officio actually means, from the Latin, “arising from the office.” Most bylaws that we see state that the director or executive director (ED, CEO, President) is, in fact, an “ex-officio member of the board.” This means that the key executive who is entrusted with the day-to-day oversight and leadership of the organization and is automatically a fully functioning board member (from the moment the executive is hired to the moment he or she is no longer the executive). Fully functioning means exactly that – ex-officio members have, or should have, an expectation to fully participate in all board activities (with the only exception of being excused for direct conflicts of interest like discussions of their own salary).

Voting right

As a fully functioning board member, the executive has the exact same voting privilege as anyone else on the board - one vote whenever there is a ballot cast, according to Robert’s Rules of Order.  Being ex-officio carries no prohibition on voting. In fact, it means exactly the opposite:  that the executive is expected to vote just as any other fully functioning board member does.

But should you vote? That’s another question altogether. Casting a vote is an important thing for board members to do. (In fact, it’s part of their primary, legal duty of care.) Decision making is a vital point of governing. Voting is the board’s official way of determining a decision (hopefully through consensus). Think about it. The executive puts in the same or more amount of time and effort on most board issues and concerns. Voting provides the opportunity for the executives to communicate their decisions.

But there is also wisdom in an executive withholding his or her vote and allowing the rest of the board the space to bring potentially objective insights to the discussion. Day-to-day immersion in the mission efforts can, at times, narrow or even cloud the executive’s view of the situation. Other board members often can bring fresh thinking, objective viewpoints, and broader insight. Since the ED often has significant input into the overall discussion, not voting makes room to present the necessary information and then trust in the vote of the rest of the governing team.

So vote... or abstain as wisdom leads. A definitive decision on actually being a non-voting board member (or not a board member at all and therefore a complete subordinate) should be clearly reflected in the language of the bylaws.

Team player

For all those ex-officio, non-voting executives -- welcome to the board team.  Whenever there is a board function (meeting, training, etc.) the executive is expected and certainly welcomed as a fellow team player. 

Robert’s Rules of Order, available online at RobertsRules.com, offers a wealth of information about the parliamentary procedures that lead to smooth, orderly, and fairly conducted meetings.

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Vice Chairman


Vice chairman


by Jor-El Godsey, Heartbeat International Vice President

From On the LeaderBoard | Volume 1, Issue 3

Absence makes the heart grow fonder. And when the chairman is absent, the vice chair gets busy.

But is that all there is for the vice chairman?

Usually the only explicit function of the vice chairman in most by laws is to preside over the Board meetings in the absence of the chairman. Establishing the role of vice chair that simply to fills in when the chair is absent is a rather short-sighted view of the role of vice chair. In fact, some states don’t recognize the position of vice chair as an officer, or vice president if the Board operates a model of president as chief officer of the Board. Therefore, bylaws sometimes don’t even list the vice chair (or vice president) among the officers (preferring only a chair, secretary, and treasurer). This commentary applies to both vice chair and vice president.

Actually the vice chair has a couple of key, often implicit, functions. Certainly the vice chair should attend all Board meetings (unless providentially hindered from doing so). Continuity from meeting to meeting is important and the added perspective of the vice chair is beneficial.

Additionally the vice chair should serve faithfully on the Board’s executive committee (if one exists). The executive committee determines the agenda and key items at the Board meetings and also wrangles through the initial stages of key issues facing the ministry. 
The vice chair can serve as a keen observer in any Board meeting without the burden of leading the meeting (the chair’s role), without recording official notes (the secretary’s role) and without being anchored to the financials (as the treasurer often is).

The standing role of vice chair can create an opportunity for dynamic leadership to key standing or ad hoc committee work. Some Boards expressly empower their vice chair with leading the nominating committee responsible for recruiting and reviewing prospective Board members. Some ad hoc committee projects, like policy review, are great assignments for the vice chair to lead on behalf of the Board.

But perhaps the number-one implied responsibility of the vice chair is to prepare to assume the chair’s role. This is not always the trajectory of a vice chair, but the time devoted to carrying out the responsibilities of vice chair is an important opportunity to truly understand the chair’s role in leading the Board, represent the organization, and stay true to the heart of the mission and ministry.


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by Jor-El Godsey, Heartbeat International Vice President

From On the LeaderBoard | Volume 1, Issue 3

scaleImagine a Board with 100 members. How long would their discussions last? Sound far-fetched? Actually, using a precise number for quorum in your by-laws like 51% can only apply when there are exactly 100 members. So a quorum of 51% would be only 51 Board members.

According to Article XI, Roberts Rules of Orders, “A Quorum of an assembly is such a number as must be present in order that business can be legally transacted.”

Generally, the specific quorum number for your organization is defined in your by laws. The simplest phrase that accomplishes this is majority which means more than half. Even “50% +1” is not helpful here as it is only true for even numbers, but false for odd numbers because odd numbers.

Your definition of membership, as defined in your by-laws, may play a role in your Board meetings. If your membership in effect is not confined to the number of Board members, your actual quorum number may be larger than you think.

Once a quorum at a meeting has been established, it only continues to function appropriately as long as the number for quorum is maintained. If the Board meeting starts with a bare minimum for quorum and a Board member leaves the meeting (for any reason), then quorum no longer exists and no business can be legally transacted. Be careful with this in counting the executive director (ED) for quorum.

As an “ex-officio” member of the Board, an ED has the same right and responsibility as a Board member. (See OTLB Volume 1, Issue 1.)

For example, if the ED was counted to establish quorum and then is later excused for Board discussion pertaining to her salary, the Board loses its quorum.

“While a quorum is competent to transact any business, it is usually not expedient to transact important business unless there is a fair attendance at the meeting, or else previous notice of such action has been given.” This valuable warning is right from the same Roberts Rules of Order, Article XI. Just because we can transact important business with a less-than-full Board doesn’t mean that we should. A simple majority of Board members (if that is the quorum in the by laws) on a large Board can allow for big decisions to be made by a relatively small group.

The wise Board will establish a quorum that expects an appropriate number of Board members to be present to best serve the mission and the ministry.

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Officers of the Board – The Treasurer

From On the LeaderBoard Volume 1, Issue 2

This discussion covers both primary expectations and practical considerations of the Board member who controls the purse strings.

Some say the most important role on the Board is that of treasurer. If not most important, then it’s second only to that of the Board chair. The treasurer is indeed a key and pivotal role for every corporate organization, including those that are not-profit.

The treasurer’s primary duty is oversight of the organization’s financial standing and statements. This is not to say the treasurer dictates financial decisions. The duty is to fulfill, or oversee fulfillment of, the Board’s collective decisions regarding finances.

Oversight of the financial statements means that the treasurer is at least reporting on the organization’s current finances. This is done via what is known as generally accepted accounting principles (G.A.A.P.) that are applied to the standard financial statements common to for-profits and non-profit organizations alike.

Like our well-known refrain in pregnancy help work, the best decision is an informed decision. The treasurer should be careful to insure accurate and timely financial statements. Also, the treasurer should help Board members understand that information in context. Reporting on year-over-year comparisons, year-to-date budget numbers, cash flow projections, and other evaluation tools can make it very helpful for Board members to understand the numbers as they are as well as what they should, could, or need to be.

The treasurer should also oversee the internal controls relative to the organization’s finances. The treasurer should make certain that good policies guide segregation of duties, bank reconciliations, disbursements, and other key processes that require checks and balances. For a variety of reasons, an organization’s financial statements could be scrutinized in an audit. For example, the organization might need to hire a certified public accountant to conduct a private audit or a government agency such as the Internal Revenue Service could require an audit. Any auditor will look closely at the policy, procedure, and practice of handling the finances (including opening mail and processing donations). 

Many a treasurer serves as the de facto bookkeeper for the ministry handling all, or a significant portion, of the disbursements and deposits.  Depending upon the availability of the treasurer, this arrangement can work for most small and even medium-sized ministries. Adding a bookkeeper to serve more regular and/or increased hours can facilitate segregation of duties (a strong practice for potential audits) and enhance evaluation and analytical efforts. Once enlisted (possibly hired), the bookkeeper fits into the organizational chart under the executive director in coordination with the Board treasurer.

Not all Board members enter Board service with knowledge of common financial statements such as the income (or profit/loss) statement, balance sheet, and statements of equity and cash flow. The treasurer should make the effort to educate as well as possible all Board members regarding these key decision-making documents.

It’s common, especially in smaller organizations, for the office of secretary and treasurer to be a combined function. This may work for a very new and very small organization (budget wise), but the complexity of the finances and the requirements of good record keeping can quickly overwhelm all but the most capable person unless that person has lots of available time. It’s wise to split these two responsibilities into two distinct officers with the separate functions fulfilled by different individuals.

A good resource for any treasurer is Step Up to the Next Level – A Guide for Pregnancy Centers to Improve Their Internal Operations and Get Ready for an Audit by James L. Ulvog, CPA, available at RiverstoneFinanceBooks.com.

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Fiduciary responsibility: At the heart of Board service


From On the LeaderBoard Volume 1, Issue 2

Trust is the root of the word fiduciary. In Latin, the word fiducia means trust and it’s from this root that the word fiduciary comes into use for good governance today. Maybe “into use” is a bit strong since the word fiduciary doesn’t come into play in most Board conversations. In fact, when we talk about it, we usually pair it with the word responsibility, as in “Board members have a fiduciary responsibility.”

Yes, Board members do have a fiduciary responsibility. It starts with a fiduciary relationship, meaning that the Board is the group of individuals identified by the state (where the organization is incorporated) as the governing body. Board members, in accepting the role, enter into a fiduciary relationship with each other, the organization, and the organization’s general public as well as the state. In fact, this fiduciary responsibility is intrinsic to every aspect of being a Board member and is not limited to the Board member’s financial decisions on behalf of an organization.

The Board as fiduciary has the power and obligation to act for the ministry under circumstances that require total trust, good faith, and honesty. Legally, a fiduciary is held to a standard of conduct and trust above that of a stranger or of a casual businessperson. The Board as a whole is the fiduciary, and each member individually has his or her own fiduciary responsibility. As such, Board members must avoid "self-dealing" or "conflicts of interests" in which the potential benefit to the fiduciary conflicts with what is best for the organization that they govern. In legal terms, absence from a meeting or pleading ignorance does not relieve a Board member of responsibility for actions of the Board.

Charitable, non-profit Board members and staff in the U.S. specifically need to be aware of and comply with the three fiduciary duties related to their work that have significant legal ramifications: the Duty of Care, the Duty of Loyalty, and the Duty of Obedience. Though this is drawn from U.S. law, it originates in common or English law, which has also been influential in the law of other countries of the former British Empire. Heartbeat’s GOVERN Well manual covers these duties and gives examples of how these duties are embodied in good governance. Each duty is important in its own right and will be discussed separately in future issues of On the LeaderBoard.

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