Joining a nonprofit board of directors is a major commitment. While board service can be one of the most rewarding ways to give back, a bad fit or poor performance can lead to a difficult and even potentially costly board service experience. If asked to join a nonprofit Board, consider the following questions:
- Are you passionate about the organization’s mission and vision?
- Will you be able to serve for the expected term and attend the majority of meetings?
- What are the expectations of board members?
- What contribution is expected from you as a board member beyond board service (Time, Talent, Treasure)?
- Does the nonprofit have D&O insurance?
- How committed is the nonprofit to compliance? (Ask to see its audited financial statements and Form 990)
- How receptive is the nonprofit’s leader to recommendations made by the board?
- Has the nonprofit ever been sued? If so, for what?
- What is the nonprofit’s financial health? Does it have cash reserves or does it struggle to pay overhead expenses?
- Are you passionate enough about this nonprofit to donate your money to it and ask your friends and family to donate?
If, after exploring the above, your responses to questions 1 and 10 are a resounding YES! and the rest of the information doesn’t scare you, ask to participate in a board meeting as a guest. You may even ask to review the board book including articles, bylaws, organizational charts and policies to get a better sense of the organization’s operations and structure. Careful due diligence prior to joining a board will help ensure a positive board experience.
Ellis Carter is a nonprofit attorney licensed to practice in Washington and Arizona. Ellis advises tax-exempt clients on federal tax matters nationwide.