So you want to join a Board (or: Fiduciary Responsibility)

One of the most generous ways to give to a nonprofit is to serve on its Board of Directors. As a Board member, you provide essential leadership and oversight of the organization. At the right organization, your skills and expertise couldn’t be put to better use.

The words "fiduciary responsibility" in back font on a white background. All lower case.While Boards can take different forms, most ask for a financial contribution of some sort – we often call it “give or get” – either give a specified annual amount or raise it by soliciting donations. A lesser-known, or perhaps less-readily-discussed, responsibility is fiduciary responsibility. Remember, as a Board member, you are a leader. You are accountable for the well-being of the organization, for appropriate use of funds, and much more. There is a reason such organizations have insurance and while it is unnecessary to expound upon the nuances of fiduciary responsibility here, it is important to be aware that individual Board members may, in the worst of cases, find themselves the ultimate responsible party, financially and otherwise.

This is not to scare anyone away from joining a Board. In fact, I encourage you to join, to give back in this most generous of ways. Indeed, a good organization will inform you of such responsibilities. But maybe it’s good if you are scared, just a little bit. Don’t join a Board on a whim. Know what you’re getting into and believe in it so much, take it so seriously, that fiduciary responsibility won’t ever become a threat.

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