What are the expectations of foundation board members?

Foundation board members are expected to:

  • Set and adjust the direction for the foundation—its mission and goals
  • Establish principles, policies, and procedures that govern the foundation’s operation and advance its mission
  • Oversee the foundation to ensure that it operates effectively and efficiently in support of the mission, and that it complies with legal rules

There are certain duties unique to foundation boards. The following may be done by the board or delegated to board committees, but the board is responsible for all these duties:

  • Make grants or operate programs
  • Ensure legal compliance
  • Set the budget and oversee expenses
  • Invest resources to protect assets, and support the mission and spending policy, and review investment performance regularly
  • Hire and evaluate staff, consultants, or advisors
  • Present the foundation and its activities to the public
  • Evaluate the foundation’s programs and operations, and adjust course as necessary
  • Plan for the foundation’s future
  • Consider changing needs in the community, new opportunities to make an impact, and the foundation’s need for leadership continuity
  • Work to ensure that the foundation’s activities advance the donor’s vision and foundation mission, and serve the public interest

Boards of unstaffed foundations also implement the principles, policies and procedures the board has established; comply with the legal rules; and administer the foundation’s programs—because there is no one else to do this work!

Still have questions?

Members can access staff experts through our Q&A service by calling 202-580-6560, or post a question to the member community to hear form peers in the field.

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