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A Guide to Nonprofit Board Service

January 2, 2019

As Oregon Heritage gears up for our 2019 Heritage Summit on the Culture of Board Engagement, we reached out to the Oregon Department of Justice to learn more about their Guide to Nonprofit Board Service in Oregon.

nonprofit-board-serviceSusan Bower, Assistant Attorney General in the Charitable Activities Section of the DOJ, shared that over 21,000 charitable organizations are registered with the Oregon DOJ, and the majority of nonprofits in Oregon (68%) have less than $100,000 in annual revenue. While Oregon nonprofits vary in size, structure and mission, there are a number of principles that apply to all nonprofits. The Guide to Nonprofit Board Service in Oregon is a free resource to assist nonprofit board members in performing their roles as directors. Read our Q & A with Susan to learn more.

Q. What is the goal of the Guide to Nonprofit Board Service in Oregon?

A. The Department wants charitable organizations to be well-run so that they are successful and contribute to our society. The board is ultimately responsibility for managing charities. Through the Guide to Nonprofit Board Service in Oregon, the Department strives to educate boards about their roles, rights, and responsibilities so that they can implement good governance practices, understand and comply with applicable laws, and improve their chances of success.

Q. What is the role of the Attorney General’s Office in overseeing nonprofits in Oregon?

A. The Attorney General has broad supervisory rights and responsibilities over charities, charitable fiduciaries, and charitable assets. In general, the Attorney General’s role is to protect the public’s interest in charitable assets. There are numerous statutes specifically referencing her authority, such as the Charitable Trust and Corporation Act, ORS 128.610 – 128.759, Charitable Solicitation Act, ORS 128.801 to 128.898, but the underpinnings of her authority stem from long-established common law principles that the Attorney General is in the best position to protect the public’s interest in charities.

Q. Based on what comes through your office, what is the top piece of advice you would give a new nonprofit board member?

A. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Many times new board members feel intimidated or embarrassed by their lack of knowledge and are reluctant to ask questions. But one of the fundamental principles of board governance is that board directors must actively participate in and make informed, even if not perfect, decisions. We find that many boards never undergo any formal board training and are often unaware of their various roles and responsibilities or are acting under misinformation. Ask for clarification of budgets, programs, and policies if they are not made clear or no information is given. Be sure you have reviewed your organization’s Articles and Bylaws and financial information. Become informed so that you can meaningfully participate in decisions.

Mark your calendar for the 2019 Heritage Summit “The Culture of Board Engagement” that will take place in Medford April 25-26, 2019. 

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