Guidance and Ground Rules for Joining a Not-for-Profit Board

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Joining a not-for-profit board may bring tremendous opportunities for an individual looking to serve a community or specific area of interest. Still, it helps to understand the particulars of what such a commitment means and some of the challenges board members face.

There are several considerations before joining a not-for-profit board that Kirby Ross, Partner, Tax Services at Weaver, shared with host Tyler Kern.

Ross said that, often, when someone joins a not-for-profit board, they are unfamiliar with the particular requirements for the board or the organization. The first step to deciding to join a board is knowing and understanding the roles and responsibilities of that board member.
“Another challenge is just learning all aspects of the organization,” Ross said. “If you’re not familiar with the nonprofit, just try to dive in and learn as much as you can about it before you join.”

There are legal obligations for board members that are important to understand before joining a not-for-profit. And along with those obligations, there are requirements such as meetings and committee responsibilities that may or may not be a fit to the level of effort a person can commit.

“Another thing for new board members to be aware of is really understanding the organization’s mission,” Ross said. “What is their mission, and how do they work to fulfill it?”

The financial implications of board members should not be understated.

“Board members are fiduciaries,” Ross said. “They have a fiduciary responsibility whenever they join, and as a board member they’re part of managing an organization. Many people don’t realize the fiduciary responsibilities they have as part of the organization’s board. They may look at joining a board more as a marketing opportunity for themselves, and maybe for their business, instead of focusing on their fiduciary responsibilities.”

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