What Does the Board of Directors Do At The Mountaineers?

Hear from our board president about the roles and responsibilities of our board of directors, how members are selected and elected, and the committees of the board, and learn more about how you can get involved.
Vik Sahney Vik Sahney
President, Mountaineers Board of Directors
April 30, 2020
What Does the Board of Directors Do At The Mountaineers?

The Mountaineers Board of Directors is the ultimate governing body responsible for overseeing the organization as dictated by our bylaws. This includes setting the strategic plan, approving the budget and tracking organizational financial performance, hiring the CEO, electing the board’s officers, and setting organizational policies and procedures. The board works with the CEO and staff to set the overall direction for the organization through the strategic plan (e.g., Vision 2022). The board also reviews and approves the annual budget and reviews performance to that budget.

But does that mean the board determines the process for someone to become a hike leader at the club for example? Not exactly! The Mountaineers is a complex organization, and while the board has ultimate responsibility, it has delegated its authority for many policies and procedures to the branches, outdoor centers, and activity committees responsible for running those parts of the organization.

In total, our board has 22-28 members at any given time. A quorum, or simple majority, is required for any formal decisions by the board.

Board roles and selection

Every individual on the board shares a love for The Mountaineers and our mission. Each board member is different, and when considering new members we look at factors of their personal identity and their professional background. We seek to have a broad diversity of Directors, as studies show that the more diverse your pool of decision makers, the more innovative and successful your solution. We consider Directors on the basis of gender, age, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, outdoor activities, branch affiliation, profession, and skillset. The Governance Committee also looks at what an individual candidate will uniquely contribute to the board given the existing slate of Directors. 

American Philanthropic advises nonprofits to “assess potential board members based on three “W’s” — “wealth, wisdom, and work.” In other words, giving capacity, subject-matter expertise that’s relevant to your organizational mission, and a willingness to volunteer time and/or access to professional networks.” We have broader definitions for what this means at The Mountaineers: Wisdom relates to the value of their knowledge and experience; Wealth relates to their ability to fundraise or donate to the Mountaineers; Work refers to their capacity to lead projects and deliver work for the board.

Some of our board members are former branch or activity chairs or super volunteers. Others are current or recent graduates of a Mountaineers course. We’ve also had Mountaineers Books authors and elite alpinists. Many Directors bring prior board experience and other valuable professional experience in areas like fundraising, risk management, finance, or legal.

The Board consists of three different types of director level positions, and thus different ways of becoming a board member. All board members are unpaid members and have volunteered to serve on the board, much like a branch chair volunteers to serve the branch or a committee member serves on an activity committee.

At large directors

At-Large Directors are elected by the membership at-large to serve a 3-year term. These individuals are screened and nominated by the Governance Committee and confirmed by the board, or nominated at the annual member meeting. The number of ‘At-Large’ Directors on the board varies between 9 and 15 members, and elections for these individuals are held every fall. This variable number provides flexibility for the board to bring on talented directors both when the organization has a need and the volunteer is available, rather than waiting until elections. The board can appoint a director when a vacancy exists, and that appointed director will stand for vote by the membership at the next election.

Branch director

Each of our seven branches elect a Branch Director to sit on the board as well. Branch Director elections are run by the branches and the candidate selection processes vary. Reach out to your branch for more information.


The board also includes six officer roles: President, Vice President, Secretary, Treasurer, VP Outdoor Centers, and VP Branches. The Governance Committee recommends an officer slate for the board, which is then debated and voted on in the January board meeting. Officers serve a 2-year term starting in March. Individuals do not need to have been on the board previously to serve in an officer role.

Board Meetings

The board convenes six times each year: four times per year at the Seattle Program Center and twice during longer working retreats at one of our Mountaineers lodges. Board meetings are open to all Mountaineers members and the schedule and details can be found on The Mountaineers Board of Directors page

In a typical board meeting, the board hears updates from our various committees (e.g., Finance, Governance) before deep diving into one or two topics. Examples of recent deep dives include: 

  • Conservation and a recap of ‘Climb the Hill’, an annual lobbying event in DC with the Access Fund and American Alpine Club
  • Teaching and Gathering Places capital projects review

Board Committees

Board members are active outside of board meetings by serving on board committees and through a multitude of various volunteer work.

The board conducts much of its work through committees, who then present their work and recommendations at our regular board meetings. These committees can be standing (perpetual) such as the Finance or Governance Committee, or ad-hoc such as the Teaching and Gathering Places Committee. Committees often have a mix of directors and other members on them. We share information about all of our board committees online

Much of what the board committee work also communicated to membership. We recently provided a committee update to the board on our Equity and Inclusion efforts, which was also translated into a blog to share with our membership.

Board of Directors vs. Advisory Council

The Advisory Council is a group of about 60 individuals from inside and outside of The Mountaineers who offer fresh perspectives and professional expertise to aid The Mountaineers in decision-making processes on issues of strategic importance for the organization. The Council consists of individuals with a passion for our mission and expertise from which The Mountaineers could benefit. Often the Advisory Council is the first place we start when thinking about a new project or idea, or when looking to learn about how initiatives we’re considering are being handled in other companies and organizations. 

The Advisory Council gathers twice a year to listen and learn about high-level issues within The Mountaineers so that they may provide out-of-the-box strategic advice. Members help to define, discuss, and give recommendations on ways in which The Mountaineers can further our vision and strategic plan. The Council presents an opportunity to engage, educate, and create future leaders, ambassadors, and advocates for The Mountaineers.

Recent topics have included discussions about our core values and where we might go with Vision 2022, the effectiveness of our fundraising communications, and the climate crisis. 

Become a Board Member

We’d love to hear from you! We have multiple opportunities for you to learn more about the Board, confirm your interest, and put your name forward.

  • Attend a board meeting. See the work of the board and meet other Directors.
  • Read the minutes from a recent board meeting.
  • Read our position description to understand the types of skills and backgrounds we are looking for on the board.
  • Reach out to your branch chair or another board member and express your interest. Find our more by reading the current bios of our board members. 
  • Work with the board on a committee. Many board committees include non-director members such as the Governance Committee and the Equity & Inclusion Committee.