Look Before You Leap onto a Nonprofit Board

If you’re wealthy and charitably inclined, you’re likely to be asked to join a nonprofit organization’s board at some point. Serving on a board may be a wonderful experience and give you an opportunity to do much good, but it’s a big commitment—and it may pose legal and ethical issues. Before accepting, we suggest you ask yourself and the organization:

  • Does the organization’s mission interest me?
  • Do I have the time to devote to board service?
  • What is the overall time commitment, and what are my responsibilities? How much fund-raising will I have to do?
  • How does the board deal with potential conflicts of interest? Are there conflict-of-interest rules I should know about?
  • What is my liability as a board member, and does the organization provide directors’ and officers’ liability insurance?
  • Is the organization financially stable?
  • How does the organization decide what gifts to accept, and how does the organization ensure that donor intent is honored?

This article is an edited excerpt from The Seeds You Plant: Growing Your Philanthropic Impact, Bernstein, 2016.

Anne Bucciarelli
National Director—Family Engagement Strategy

For more tips on becoming financially engaged, explore Women & Wealth, a new Bernstein podcast series designed to educate, empower, and inspire female investors, and for additional thought leadership, check out the related blogs here.

For more on timely topics for nonprofits, explore “Inspired Investing”, a new Bernstein podcast series that covers investing, spending, policy and more for Endowments & Foundations, and for additional thought leadership, check out the related blogs here.

The views expressed herein do not constitute, and should not be considered to be, legal or tax advice. The tax rules are complicated, and their impact on a particular individual may differ depending on the individual’s specific circumstances. Please consult with your legal or tax advisor regarding your specific situation.

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