9 Tenets of Fiduciary Duty as a Board Member

Fiduciary duties, as codified in state law, board bylaws, and common practice, are quite simply a set of rules to ensure that boards are run effectively, lawfully, and with the best interests of their mission in mind.  Here, we’ll look beyond the legal jargon to distill the legal and ethical responsibilities of board members to oversee the management of and ensure accountability to your nonprofit organization. 

Strategies for Handling Difficult Board Members

Think back to the last time you had to (or at least wanted to) confront your boss about micromanaging your work. Now imagine having ten bosses instead of one. You’ve just stepped into the shoes of your nonprofit’s executive director. While we might all like to cast aside the possibility of an overreaching board member in our organizations, even the most well run nonprofit boards will deal with difficult board members at some point. Boards are full of, well, humans, who have a unique set of personal experiences, emotions, and motivations that influence on their job as a director. Sometimes, that can lead to conflict that is uncomfortable, unproductive, and even contrary to the organization’s best interests. 

The Pitfalls of Delegation (and how to avoid them)

Delegating activities to committees and other qualified individuals can be helpful for nonprofit boards that are short on the time or expertise needed to carry out certain functions. For example, nonprofit boards typically delegate the day to day management of the organization to officers such as the C.E.O./Executive Director. Boards also delegate specific tasks to committees who can devote more time to particular matters.

Can Your Nonprofit Board Vote by Email?

Technology now offers businesses and boards many advantages, including the ability to meet via teleconference, video conference, or even conduct discussion and voting via electronic communications, such as email.  But while email is commonplace among many organizations for its ease of use, especially for busy and geographically diverse volunteers sitting on nonprofit boards, there are several reasons to think twice before using email for your next important nonprofit board vote. 

Fiduciary Responsibility of Nonprofit Boards

The recent high-profile ouster of Southern Poverty Law Center CEO and Founder Morris Dees, and the resignation of Board Chair Richard Cohen, show how things can go awry when a board does not provide appropriate oversight.

The board collectively, and directors/trustees individually, owe fiduciary duties to the nonprofit organization they serve. In essence, exercising fiduciary duties means that board members have a duty to act with care and in the best interest of the organization and remain loyal to its mission, as opposed to acting in their own interest or the interest of the CEO/Executive Director they supervise.

Nonprofit Board Oversight

A nonprofit’s board of directors is legally responsible for exercising the care an ordinarily prudent person in a like position would exercise in overseeing the organization’s operations. This includes the organization’s finances and legal compliance.

IRS Guidance Breathes New Life Into Mission-Related Investing

Foundations are required to expend approximately 5% of their assets for charitable purposes each year. The other 95% is invested to generate distributable income for future years. Historically, foundations have struggled with the idea of making riskier investments that further their charitable purposes, but do not qualify as a PRI because a significant purpose of the investment is the production of income or the appreciation of property.

Here Comes the Arizona Benefit Corporation

Going into effect January 1, 2015, the Arizona benefit corporation statute will enable entrepreneurs to form a corporation unlike anything Arizona has seen before. Benefit corporations enable social entrepreneurs to create a corporate structure requiring the corporation to create a general public benefit. As with anything new, its details are untested and some confusion surrounds it. Below we dig into the statute and detail what you will and will not be able to do in 2015.

Reporting Diversions of Nonprofit Assets

The Washington Post has identified over 1,000 nonprofit organizations that have reported a “significant diversion” of assets. Its important to note that there are over 1,616,000 tax-exempt nonprofits in the U.S. today; thus, these filings represent less than 1% of tax-exempt nonprofits. It’s also interesting to note that a quick review of Arizona’s list includes only 21 organizations – most of which reported the diversions in a clear, transparent, and confidence inspiring manner.