In many ways, a foundation board chair serves as coach, captain, and quarterback. As coach, the chair’s role is to provide guidance to the foundation, trustees, and staff. As captain, your role is to provide support, encouragement, and leadership, both within the foundation and more publicly in the community. As quarterback, you have a critical role leading the team — your fellow trustees — on the field or, rather, in the boardroom. Consider this primer your play book so that you can be a role model for your fellow trustees and so that your foundation can model the behavior it seeks from the nonprofit organizations you support.
If you are new to nonprofit leadership, you may not know what is expected of a board chair. This primer is designed to increase your understanding of the role by presenting a brief introduction to nonprofit governance and foundation leadership. We offer a list of 10 essential responsibilities for board chairs, practical tips for carrying them out, and recommended reading. The appendices include questions you may be asked and resources for finding additional information.