I’ve served on several nonprofit boards. I highly recommend nonprofit board service to my coworkers and friends. Nonprofits are always on the lookout for new board members. You can start by serving on a committee to make sure the nonprofit and you are a good fit.
Some of the many reasons to serve on the Board of Directors of a nonprofit:
- You can make a difference in your community.
- You learn new skills and gain knowledge in subjects you might not get exposed to otherwise.
- It’s an excellent opportunity to network, build connections and maybe, make new friends.
- Your social life can grow with the events, ceremonies, and fundraisers you get invited too.
- It looks good on a resume or LinkedIn profile.
Once you are in board service, here’s a list of things you should do each year as a responsible board member:
- Make your annual donation! You should financially support your nonprofit even if it does not require a contribution from its board members.
- Update your profile (or directory) information. Has your phone number or address changed? Did you change jobs? Most nonprofit boards maintain a profile sheet or directory for board members. Make sure the information is correct.
- Check the status of your term. If your board limits the number of years (or terms) a member can serve, check if you’re near the end of your term. If so, you have some planning to do! Prepare a package of information that needs to be turned over to the board when you step down. Have a plan to transition any projects or documents you will not be able to finish before the term ends. Think about your role with the nonprofit after you step down. Maybe you can serve on an advisory group, continue serving on a committee as a non-board member, or continue as a volunteer.
- Recommend a new board member. All boards need a constant flow of new members. This is a great time to chat with professional friends and colleagues about nonprofit board service. If one is interested, refer them to the committee responsible for recruitment. All board members should help with this task. It should not fall on the recruiting committee alone. (Note – Keep the boards recruiting targets for skills and/or professions in mind as you talk to people.)
- Review your nonprofit’s IRS Form 990 or 990-EZ! All nonprofits must file a tax return with the IRS. This form is available to the public. Look at it, please! Make sure it was submitted and that it is correct. You don’t want to be a board member of a nonprofit that loses its tax-exempt status due to issues with tax returns! (This happens to more small nonprofits than you might think.)
- Review your nonprofit’s state tax return. Does your state require a tax return from nonprofits? If so, ask to see that return as well.
- Review your nonprofit’s year-end financial statements. A board can’t ensure the financial health of a nonprofit without reviewing financial statements. Make sure you have seen them and understood what is on them.
- Review this year’s budget. (Some small nonprofits don’t have a formal budget. This is a BIG RED FLAG is there’s no budget to look at.)
- Review the nonprofit’s policy manual. This is part of governance. There are policies listed on the IRS Form 990. Your state or local government may require nonprofits to have specific policies. Any lawyer or HR professional will have a list of policies highly recommended for financial management, risk management, and operations. All policies should be readily available for you to review. Make sure the nonprofit has all the policies it is required to have.
Contact BoardSource for more information about nonprofit board service.
Tell me if I missed something! I’m happy to update the list.
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