Nonprofit Officer Roles and Responsibilities | Historic Preservation | Wisconsin Historical Society

Guide or Instruction

Officer Roles and Responsibilities on Your Nonprofit Board

Nonprofit Officer Roles and Responsibilities | Historic Preservation | Wisconsin Historical Society

Officers occupy a special role on your nonprofit board. These board leaders generally have a track record of success and leadership skills as well as a long-standing interest in your organization. Board officers are elected to their positions by other board members.

Specific board officer responsibilities should be spelled out in your organization's bylaws. Generally, board officer duties break down into these four roles:

  • President or chair
  • Vice president or vice chair
  • Treasurer
  • Secretary

President or Chair

The president or chair is the head of your board. The president or chair works in partnership with the executive director and is not to be mistaken as the staff supervisor. The president or chair is responsible for ensuring that the board is operating effectively and following through on its duties.

The board president or chair works with the executive director to prepare meeting agendas, and he or she presides at meetings. The president or chair communicates directly with all board members and makes sure each committee is working well and is chaired properly. This person (along with the executive director) also represents the organization in public contexts.

Vice President or Vice Chair

Your board's vice president or vice chair works with the president to ensure that meetings and other activities proceed smoothly. Your vice president/chair may also take on special duties, such as chairing ad hoc committees.

When the president is unavailable, the vice president assumes his or her duties. Sometimes the vice president is understood to be the next in line for presidency. In that case, the vice president or vice chair can use his or her position to adjust to the primary leadership role and smooth the eventual transition between chairs.


Your treasurer works with the organization's bookkeeper and other staff to focus on money matters. The treasurer ensures that reporting is accurate and that the board has the information it needs to make good decisions. The treasurer often chairs the finance committee and works with an auditor. The treasurer also makes sure that cash flow and investments are properly managed. Of all the positions on the board, the treasurer's position tends to be the most time-intensive.


Your secretary keeps records of your organization's board meetings and committees. The secretary also may be responsible for organizing and keeping all of the corporate records related to your organization.

Learn More

Find more how-to articles about historic preservation advocacy.

You can learn more about nonprofit operations from the Nonprofit Management Education Center offered by the Center for Community and Economic Development, which is part of the University of Wisconsin Division of Cooperative Extension. This resource includes a library of articles and an Organizational Assessment Tool.