Questions Board Members Should Ask

The board of directors for a nonprofit organization plays an important role in leading the organization to fulfill its mission.  Yes, there are steps you can take towards board leadership and things you should know before you join a nonprofit board, but what about once you are on a board? Now what?

I believe it is important for board members to be engaged and discuss issues facing the nonprofit organization.  As a leader of the nonprofit organization, you are in a position to start a dialogue about issues that are important to the organization’s viability and success in fulfilling its mission.  You should not just “assume” that someone else is providing appropriate oversight; it is important for you to ask questions and get answers, so you can fulfill your duty as a board member. And don’t think you are the only person curious about asking something…chances are, if you have a question, others on the board do as well.

Here are some questions that you, as a board member, can consider asking:


  • Is our organization financially stable, and how did we determine if the organization is or is not financially stable?
  • What are the organization’s sources of revenue and are they sufficient to meet our needs?  Is there a need to diversify or seek new revenue sources?
  • Are the appropriate checks and balances in place to prevent fraud, and have those procedures been reviewed by an outside auditor?
  • What can I do to support the organization’s fundraising efforts?
  • Who is responsible for filing the organization IRS 990, tax return?
  • I don’t understand “XYZ” on the financial statements, can someone explain it to me?


  • What is the nominating process for new board leadership?
  • Do we have a conflict of interest policy and are we abiding by it?
  • Is the nonprofit organization involved in any pending lawsuits or legal issues?
  • When was the last times our bylaws were revised and is it time to review them again?

Human Resources:

  • What benefits do we offer our employees, and are those appropriate?
  • How does the board evaluate the executive director?
  • How are the salaries determined for our employees?
  • Do we have appropriate policies in place for our employees including a sexual harassment policy, time off (sick, PTO, vacation) policy, drug and alcohol policy, safety policy, whistle blower policy, and disciplinary policy?

Program Implementation:

  • How does “XYZ program” help us in fulfilling our mission?
  • How do we measure success for our organization in fulfilling our mission?
  • Are there any grant requirements that our organization must fulfill in implementing “XYZ program”?

Asking questions and starting a dialogue on issues important to the nonprofit is one way you can fulfill your duties as a board member.  No question is silly or stupid.  And you are not “out of line” for wanting to learn more and better understand the nonprofit organization.  Asking questions can help strengthen the organization, and the answers to the questions will increase your ability to lead the organization.

Most importantly, as a board member: Don’t be afraid to ask questions!

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About Dr. Sarah Wolin Mackey

Putting theory into practice at nonprofit organizations.
This entry was posted in Board of Directors, Nonprofit Management and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Questions Board Members Should Ask

  1. Pingback: What your board needs to know | Sarah W Mackey

  2. Pingback: Board fundraising: Writing a check is only the start | Sarah W Mackey

  3. Pingback: 25 Ways to Engage Your Board in Fundraising | Sarah W Mackey

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