Serving as a Board or Committee Member

Serving as a Board or Committee Member

by Brandon Mustful

Great River Rescue was incorporated in 1977 as the Beltrami Humane Society. According to Minnesota Statute 317, the business and affairs of a nonprofit corporation must be managed by, or under the direction of a board of directors. The original board consisted of seven members who were outlined in our Articles of Incorporation. Ever since then, board members have been joining and leaving according to our Bylaw which allows for three year terms and no more than ten successive years of service.

It is the job of our board of directors to provide governance, oversight, fiscal management, and strategic guidance. Basically, board members are stewards over the organization making sure it will continue to exist and thrive. At Great River Rescue, board members serve voluntarily without any form of compensation. The three specific legal duties of a nonprofit board are: the duty of care, duty of loyalty, and the duty of obedience.

Duty of Care – Take care of the nonprofit by ensuring prudent use of all assets, including facility, people, and good will; and provide oversight for all activities that advance the nonprofit’s effectiveness and sustainability.

Duty of Loyalty – Make decisions in the best interest of the nonprofit corporation; not in his or her self-interest.

Duty of Obedience – Ensure that the nonprofit obeys applicable laws and acts in accordance with ethical practices; that the nonprofit adheres to its stated corporate purposes, and that its activities advance its mission.[i]

At Great River Rescue, our board of directors meets once per month to stay updated on shelter activities, make policy decisions, and strategize about how to approach our regular challenges. Board members also serve on various committees, such as our Community Education Committee, and are active in outreach and fundraising activities. Some board members donate more time than others, depending on what they are able to give, but all of them have a passion for the work of Great River Rescue. Our board is also filled with people with a diverse set of skills, which is important to any nonprofit. Board members give in the areas in which they are more skilled or comfortable and which also helps accomplish our mission.

The board of directors also oversees our set of volunteer committees. Three committees, the executive, finance, and nominating committee are required by our organization’s Bylaws. Currently, we also have a fundraising, animal welfare, and community education committees. Each serve a different function in working toward the accomplishment of our mission. Board members serve on these committees, but so do volunteers that are not necessarily on the board. In fact, many of our board members started out as committee members who stepped up to a higher role with our board. Some of our committees meet as regularly as once per month, while others may only meet as needed. Make no mistake; these committees are crucial to the health of our organization. Great River Rescue could accomplish very little if not for these volunteers planning and executing mission-oriented activities. For example, our community education committee has been the driving force over the last two years in conducting a summer day camp program which has served dozens of children in the Bemidji area. And, our fundraising would go almost nowhere without volunteers helping to plan and implement our various fundraising events throughout the year.

Great River Rescue does have a paid staff to manage the shelter itself. We generally employ about eight part-time staff to care for the animals, answer phones, process adoptions, intake new animals, and maintain facilities. I have the only full-time salaried position as the organization’s director. I also have the only position that has any responsibilities outside of the shelter itself. In other words, I’m the only person who is paid to work on outreach, fundraising, volunteer recruitment, managing the website, building partnerships, educational programming, etc. At present, we are an organization with a nearly $250,000 budget, intaking and adopting over 30 animals per month. Clearly, we need more than our eight part-time and one full-time employees to keep things running at a high level.

Great River Rescue does not need extraordinary people to continue our mission of saving animals, preventing animal abuse, and reducing pet overpopulation. We need regular people who care about companion animals and want to make a difference in our community. Volunteers also do not need to commit extraordinary amounts of time, but they should know what it means to make a commitment.

If you would like to learn more about our Board and committees, you can get a lot of information right on our website at  You can also email me at or call me at 751-7910. I’d love to talk to you more about volunteering with us and find out more about you and your passions.

[i] “Board Roles and Responsibilities.” National Council of Nonprofits. (Accessed 12/7/2017)

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