All on Board

5 Key Questions to Ask before You Join a Nonprofit’s Board

During or after your executive career, you may discover a desire to lend your expertise to the board of a nonprofit organization. After all, the skills you’ve developed in the business world may be valuable to an organization.

Before you accept a board seat, however, it’s important to ask the organization — and yourself — some questions to ensure it’s a win-win for everyone. “You want to make sure it’s a good fit, so there are no surprises later on,” says Bill Newburn, Vice President and Wealth Advisor at Regions Private Wealth Management in Tyler, Tex.

Some questions he recommends asking:

Does the organization’s mission align with yours?

Having passion for the organization’s mission and goals will make the experience all the more rewarding. Find out what the organization and its board hope to achieve in coming years. If the mission aligns with your values, “it will give you the energy you need to serve in the right way,” Newburn says.

What’s the time commitment involved?

Ascertain in advance how many meetings you will need to attend and what your expected commitment will be outside of those meetings. You should only accept the position knowing that you can fulfill the expectations.

Is there liability protection in place?

Some nonprofits’ boards have found themselves in legal trouble due to the organization’s mismanagement or claims that the board did not uphold its fiduciary duty. Check whether the board provides you with Directors & Officers coverage or other protections in case of legal action.

What are the governance rules?

Remember that governance is a big part of a board’s duties. Read the organization’s bylaws so that you are equipped to assume fiduciary duty. Also determine whether there is a board code of ethics and defined checks and balances.

What skills and assistance can you bring to the board?

Understand why the organization wants you on its board. Often, a nonprofit board looks to generate momentum and leverage contacts within the community. Other times, it needs someone savvy with finances or marketing or wants someone from the private sector who can recommend efficiencies within the organization. “When you can marry someone’s skill set to a specific need, that usually is a very good pairing,” Newburn says.

You may also be able to help the organization be more financially diligent. Your Wealth Advisor can put you in touch with Regions Institutional Services, which assists nonprofits and their boards with accounting, asset management, investment strategies and other key financial needs.

Whatever you decide, remember that serving on a nonprofit’s board is a noble endeavor. Not only does it allow you to use your business skills, but it can help you build a legacy of goodwill.


This information is general in nature and is provided for educational purposes only. Regions makes no representations as to the accuracy, completeness, timeliness, suitability, or validity of any information presented. Information provided and statements made by employees of Regions should not be relied on or interpreted as accounting, financial planning, investment, legal, or tax advice. Regions encourages you to consult a professional for advice applicable to your specific situation.