As accounting professionals who specialize in nonprofit organizations, we’re often presented with opportunities to strengthen financial positions and, in turn, serve our communities both directly and indirectly. One of the most humbling opportunities is serving as a board treasurer. What may seem like a time-consuming task is truly one of the most rewarding ways to make a fiscal difference for an organization that you care about. What exactly is the purpose of the board treasurer?
A treasurer should possess a complete understanding of financial reporting and procedures as the position often comes with the task of serving as chair of the board finance committee. Some responsibilities of a finance committee include reviewing periodic financial statements, drafting and presenting an annual budget to the board, overseeing expenditures, monitoring compliance with covenants related to debt or grant funding, ensuring the completeness of the annual tax form (990), and assisting external accountants when undergoing review or audit procedures.
While a treasurer’s ability to contribute financial expertise is crucial, one should also be able to translate fiscal information and concepts to fellow board members who likely have little understanding of those topics. The ability to serve as a liaison between the board, finance committee, and accounting personnel will ensure effortless communication of inter-organizational goals, concerns, and ideas. Maintaining this channel allows the board’s treasurer and finance committee to adjust budgets and review their fiscal strategy for economic uncertainties with greater ease.
The success of a nonprofit organization can be largely determined by the enthusiasm of its board members and management personnel for the mission they so tirelessly work to achieve. This eagerness to enhance the world around them, in concurrence with financial expertise, strong communication and leadership skills, and the ability to reconcile short-term strategy with long-term goals are all necessary attributes of a prominent treasurer. Likewise, it’s important to note that these qualities are often rooted in professional experience and strengthen over time. At the commencement of your term, communications with the former treasurer(s) and the current engagement partner on the audit or review team, attendance at not-for-profit and governance seminars, and meetings with management and accounting personnel are sure to provide adequate insight as you settle into your new role.
Board service is a serious and demanding business, a reality that’s often obscured by the fact that the majority of nonprofit board members are volunteers. At times, you may find yourself going outside of your comfort zone and making difficult decisions necessary to promote fiscal stability, but keep in mind that without spirited board members and the selfless giving of one’s talents and time, even the largest nonprofit organizations responsible for sparking the most significant movements and demands for change would fall apart. Above all, embrace your new leadership position and take pride in the impact you have on securing the future of a meaningful cause.