The position of an ex officio board member is often misunderstood. Not merely an honourable title, it is a position that requires the same amount of commitment as that of a regular board member. Understand the rights and responsibilities that come along with the title in order to better serve your organisation or company in this capacity.
"Ex officio" is a term that comes from Latin words that mean "by virtue of office or position," according to Robert's Rules of Order, the leading guide for meeting procedures.
Ex officio board members are not elected to a board of directors but are given this position because of another position they hold, perhaps in the company, government or academia. In addition, some positions on the board of directors, such as that of president, require that the holder act as an ex officio member of other committees. For example, the board treasurer may also serve as a member of the finance committee, regardless of whether she was elected to that committee or not. In this case, the treasurer would be an ex officio member of the finance committee.
Unless otherwise stated in the bylaws of the organisation, ex officio members have the same rights and responsibilities as any other board member. Ex officio members may participate in discussions, suggest items to be considered by the board, and vote and be voted to officer positions (treasurer, president, etc) on the board.
Some organisations may choose to limit the rights of ex officio members. Such organisations will have these restrictions clearly stated in the bylaws. Such restrictions include preventing ex officio members from: voting, being elected to officer positions, counting as part of a quorum, or having full access to sensitive information that may be available to other board members.
The limit of an ex officio board member's term should be defined in the bylaws of the organisation. Ex officio members may serve for a specified or unspecified amount of time, depending on the needs of the organisation and the availability of the members.