Typical reports received from staff to board of directors at non-profit?
April 23, 2015 12:11 PM   Subscribe

I recently was appointed to the board of directors for a non-profit. What are expectations for reports from staff inside organization presented at monthly board meetings?

I understand that there are certain requirements for internal status reports dictated by grantees. What type of information above and beyond grantee requirements should a board have to understand health of organization? Right now we get previous minutes, small executive director summary of activity, executive director correspondence, and a boilerplate write up of status of each program. There is no statement on the financial health of the organization, cash flow, schedules, goals, action items, etc. What type of information should board expect organizational staff to prepare to have robust understanding of health and activities at the non-profit? Are there examples or templates online? Should the board also keep a list of it's own action items? Should we expect organizational staff to make regular presentations at board meetings? I have no previous experience with this.
posted by Captain Chesapeake to Human Relations (11 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
I would expect regular financials.

Otherwise, I think this depends very much on the type of organization and the type of board. Could you provide more details? This is an area in which practices vary pretty widely and just positing a generic non-profit will get you varying answers.
posted by ssg at 12:18 PM on April 23, 2015


The non-profit is a vocational school which implements several programs for low income immigrant populations.
posted by Captain Chesapeake at 12:24 PM on April 23, 2015


There's no one standard, but typically a package includes an agenda, minutes from previous meetings, financials (income statement and some type of assets vs. liabilities statement depending on the accounting requirements), a report from staff (typically the Executive Director) on what has happened related to board directives and other activities, and then supporting materials related to the other items on the agenda which will be discussed. If the organization gets audited, then the audit is presented annually.

In terms of goals, schedules, strategic plans, by-laws, and action items - typically this kind of stuff is done during board orientation so you are aware of what the overall direction of the organization is, as well as what expectations and limitations are of you as a board member. Ideally, staff reports line up with the strategic stuff so you can see what the busy bees are doing and how it advances these strategies.

If I were you, I would inquire whether or not the board has director's liability insurance. I would absolutely turn down any board that did not have liability insurance and where the status quo was not to formally see the books very often. I'd hate to take on a board position only to also inherit missing money, embezzlement, debt, or a whole host of other things that hurt your reputation as caretaker of the organization.
posted by buoys in the hood at 12:35 PM on April 23, 2015 [1 favorite]


I was on the board of a totally different type of non-profit (an arts organization), and I expected financial information at every meeting in writing. Specifically, I wanted to see a balance sheet and a cash flow statement. I wanted the cash flow statement to show how things compared to our budget and to earlier time periods. I felt like I needed that information in order to fulfill my fiduciary duty. In addition to generally allowing me to monitor the financial health of the organization, it gave me the necessary background to better understand what was at stake when we made high-level decisions. (Maybe we've done better than expected and can take a bit of a programming risk. Maybe it is time to batten down the hatches. Maybe I've noticed over the years that expenses for a certain type of even always go over the executive director's estimate.)

I think the board should also expect updates on the key services provided by the organization, any HR or legal issues that have arisen, and developments on the fundraising side (which grants we had and hadn't received, which applications were outstanding, donor relations, planned and ongoing appeals for donations, etc.). I'm not aware of specific documents for those types of reports.
posted by Area Man at 12:46 PM on April 23, 2015


Also required (in the non-profits/co-ops that I have been involved with) is a statement to the effect that all Federal remittances are up to date. Which we used to require our lone employee to stay and say, so I remember the phrase as "The Federal remittances are up to date can I go now please?"
posted by scruss at 12:48 PM on April 23, 2015


Absolutely monthly financials, which should already exist. If they don't, that's a problem that needs to be addressed. If they do, then it's just a matter of distributing them.

Hopefully there are board members with previous experience from whom you can find out how things have been done in the past and why. Obviously you can recommend changes, but it helps to know the history.

There are books on this (e.g. and e.g., though I'm not familiar with them).
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 12:54 PM on April 23, 2015


A fundraising report

A projects report, especially for projects needing board approval to begin

Financial reporting

Business plan progression
posted by parmanparman at 3:30 PM on April 23, 2015


Aside from the financials and some sort of overview report, it really depends on what the goals of the board are. Are you there to provide oversight? Are you there to provide strategic direction? Are you there to help with fundraising? Are you there to help with the operations? I think if you clarify what your goal is as a board, then you should able to work backwards from there to determine what information you need to achieve that goal (and thus avoid requiring a bunch of reports just because). My experience with boards is that they often want a lot of detail, but quite often it is clear that no one is reading or everyone is just skimming very quickly, so it is best to make sure a report is actually important for the board before spending staff time on it.

Action items would typically be something that the board directs staff or board members to do and would be part of the agenda and minutes. The board's own items for discussion, etc. should all be part of the agenda and minutes as well. Someone from the board should be the secretary and either take care of these or oversee staff taking care of them.
posted by ssg at 3:41 PM on April 23, 2015


Our board packets include meeting agenda with information & action items noted, minutes from last meeting, monthly financial statements, including the list of checks, YTD expenditures, any information that supports a need for board action (e.g., approval of any grant applications/reports that need board signatures or expenditures beyond the norm), and a report from the director (me) on progress on programs and goals. All of this is mailed prior to the meeting. We have a small budget. The board pays close attention to the details of our financials and asks questions at each meeting. This is what we want from our board members.

We have a yearly audit and board members receive the full audit report at the first meeting after the audit is complete (usually the Sept meeting; we are on a July 1-June 30 FY) and the auditor gives a presentation to the board about the audit results and answers their questions. There is a lot of useful information in the audit.

I worked for a non-profit that went out of business because the board did not pay enough attention to the financial health of the organization and didn't ask the director the right questions--or question her responses. Pretty much rubber-stamped the reports and then was surprised when the problems arose. If the Board has fiduciary responsibility, you need the financials in detail to understand what is going on and to fulfill the responsibility to make sure the organization is fiscally viable.
posted by Nosey Mrs. Rat at 9:03 PM on April 23, 2015


There is a lot of good information for nonprofit boards and board members at Blue Avocado

In addition to the financials, the board would want to have tracking if it is meeting its goals. (This assumes that you actually know what the goals and priorities are. The board that I worked with had an annual day-long retreat to do that part.)

Depending on your goals, there are number questions that the board would to know and the staff should be prepared to update you (some maybe monthly, some annually) if the answers suggest a problem, then addressing that would become a project that you would be getting regular updates on. If it OK, then the board won't hear about until next year.

For example, you would want to know how you are doing with enrollment, attendance and graduation rates. These might be numbers that would reported monthly for attendance, annually for graduation. You would also want to know how you do any measures effectiveness - national exams, hiring, employer surveys. Are you teaching the right things? how do you know? Relationships with employers? # and quality of internships and/or job placements? Progress on fundraising and/or donations (usually a big item that would have monthly reporting)

In terms of who comes to board meetings, it would only the staff needed to be available to answer likely questions. The executive director for sure, often the CFO, sometimes people giving updates on particular projects so they can answer board questions. Someone (board or staff) should be taking minutes. If the written report is sufficient, such as routine updates, then that staff does not need to be at the board meeting. Remember the board should be looking at high level issues, not micromanaging the employees.
posted by metahawk at 12:09 PM on April 24, 2015


Nthing monthly financials. Balance sheet and income statement
posted by fieldtrip at 9:38 AM on April 29, 2015


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