What Information Should Board Members Get?

Blue Avocado provides suggestions for which written documents a nonprofit organization’s board should have.

What Information Should Board Members Get?
4 mins read

A suggestion for which written documents to provide to your board.

As board members, we often have a vague feeling that we aren’t getting the right information about the organizations we’re serving, but at the same time we don’t really know what to ask for. For one thing, we don’t want to be deluged with tons of material that we know we won’t be able to digest. Staff, too, are often dissatisfied with what information they give to us.

A common complaint: “The board says they want to know more, but when we send them information they don’t even read it!”

Here’s a suggestion for what written documents the board should have. Some of this same information should be presented and discussed at board meetings.

  • Form 990 annually reviewed by the board president before submission, distribution to full board. Federal Form 990 is required for nonprofits with revenue of $25,000 or more per year. Board members should know that the form has been filed, and what it says to the public about the organization.
  • Audit, if the organization has one: Copy of full audit to board president, treasurer, and Finance Committee. Board members are aware they can ask for full copy.
  • Monthly or quarterly financial statements, showing year-to-date income and expenses compared to budget, to the Finance Committee and the full board. Organizations will choose their own appropriate set.
  • Salaries, benefits and perks for the top staff (such as the top five paid staff or the director-level staff), and a salary rate chart showing the range of salaries for each category of employee: annually.
  • Directors & Officers Liability Insurance, if the organization purchases it. Proof of purchase to whole board annually. In executive session, documents related to legal actions, lawsuits, or settlements

Strategic information

  • Occasional articles about the “industry”-whether childcare, wetlands management or civil rights-articles that talk about trends in funding streams, changes in approach that are moving into the field, including articles that praise competitors/colleagues in the field.
  • Articles (from journals or written internally) about the funding and political environment in which the organization works
  • Periodic reports on program work, statistics, and impact
  • Annual updates on clients/patrons/members: who used our services or facilities? To what degree did we reach our intended audiences?

Information that supports board cohesion and leadership

  • Brief bios about board members, and updates on their professional accomplishments, personal news, and other volunteer activities
  • When reporting on an item, show specific ways that board members can help (if the item is a city council hearing, asking board members to attend and speak; if the item is a large donation, asking board members who know the donor to make a thank-you phone call).
  • Appreciation for individual board members
  • Appreciation for the board as a whole in its governance work (such as evaluation of the executive director)

About the Author

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Blue Avocado is an online magazine fueled by a monthly newsletter designed to provide practical, tactical tips and tools to nonprofit leaders. A small but mighty team of committed social sector leaders produces the publication, enlisting content from a wide range of practitioners, funders, and experts.

Articles on Blue Avocado do not provide legal representation or legal advice and should not be used as a substitute for advice or legal counsel. Blue Avocado provides space for the nonprofit sector to express new ideas. Views represented in Blue Avocado do not necessarily express the opinion of the publication or its publisher.

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