What does your Board Treasurer do?

Unless your organization is very small, with no or very few staff, it’s unlikely that your board Treasurer is directly managing the finances of your organization. In staffed organizations, day to day financial management is done by a chief financial officer, a business manager, the Executive Director, a bookkeeper, or some combination of all of those positions.

So what does a Treasurer do?

It’s pretty common practice for the Treasurer to chair the Finance Committee and present a report of the financial condition at the Board meeting, usually taking the statements that have already been prepared by the staff financial officer and reporting them to the Board. Treasurers tend to focus on the issues that matter to them most. For some, that’s cash position or year-to-date to budget. For others, it’s how the organization is doing compared to last year. Sometimes corrective action is recommended.

While monitoring the financial condition is a basic role, I have higher aspirations for the ideal  Board Treasurer. I see this individual as the facilitator of a financial brain trust within the Board (through the Finance Committee) that can help the organization think very strategically about the relationship of mission to money, both short and long term.

So here are a few items I’d like to add to the Treasurer’s job description:

  • facilitate strategic thinking within the Board about short- and long-term financial vitality
  • develop financial literacy among all the directors
  • establish a dashboard or set of key performance indicators that tells the Board at a glance how the organization is doing on critical measures (after facilitating a discussion with the Board on what those critical measures are)
  • regularly report to the Board on that dashboard

Along with these basic duties:

  • ensure prudent asset management in accordance with financial objectives and Board-approved policy
  • ensure that staff implement strong internal controls
  • oversee development of and monitor compliance with Board-approved financial policies
  • chair the Finance Committee and ensure that it achieves annual goals and objectives
  • ensure that staff properly receive and give receipts for all moneys due and payable and deposit all moneys in the name of the organization in authorized financial institutions

What’s in your Treasurer’s job description? I’d love to have you share.

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8 responses to What does your Board Treasurer do?

  1. Kirsten Bullock, Fundraising Coach

    That’s a really comprehensive list – one that I think many nonprofit treasurers for small organizations might find a little overwhelming. Any tips on where to find people who have the skills / knowledge to do this? Or resources on where they could find the training?

    • Gayle Gifford Post Author

      Ahh, Kirsten, the challenge. I did say it was my aspirational list, didn’t I?

      I think that our community foundations could serve a really important role by recruiting and training a cadre of individuals who can serve in these advanced officer roles. Some are offering training to board members in financial management.

      In looking for treasurers, small groups might want to contact local accounting firms. A number of the larger firms may have individuals with experience in nonprofit accounting who are interested in or have experience serving on nonprofit boards. But don’t limit your search there. Current or former COOs or even CEOs of larger nonprofits might be potential recruits.

      The Nonprofit Finance Fund ( http://www.nonprofitfinancefund.org ) is a good source of articles on financial management for nonprofits. Readers can also find a list of trainings they are offering on their website.

      Local CPA society nonprofit affinity groups may also offer workshops beyond the financial basics.

      And BoardSource.org has a number of booklets designed to enhance financial management. For example, I like their booklet The Nonprofit Dashboard: A Tool for Tracking Progress

  2. Sherry Truhlar

    Gayle, I agree with Kirsten that the list could overwhelm many volunteer positions. I want to give a suggestion that as organizations work to update their treasurer’s job description that they prioritize your list and add the highest priorities first. Those bang for your buck items.

    In my book, that means starting with “ensure that staff implement strong internal controls” near the top of the updated duties.

    It is nearly impossible for an organization to do any type of fundraising if there’s a misstep with funds in the history.

    The board can’t minimize the long-term impact of protecting an organization’s reputation by being a solid financial steward. And that means that someday they’ve got to be covering your entire aspirational list.

  3. Shirley

    Would it be against the best interest of a non profit to have the accountant who oversees the Director’s coding of monies as well as preparing payroll and taxes be the Treasurer of the Board?

    • Gayle Gifford Post Author

      Having paid staff on the board raises eyebrows in many quarters. For example, the Standards for Charity Accountability of the Better Business Bureau, a widely referenced watchdog, specifically forbids the Board’s Chair or its Treasurer from being a compensated individual. http://www.bbb.org/us/standards-for-charity-accountability/

      In dealing with financial matters, there is always a concern that sufficient oversight and controls are in place to ensure no hanky panky. It would be difficult to do this when the person charged with leading the board’s fiscal oversight is the same person handling the money.

      Unfortunately, embezzlement does happen. And the IRS will aggressively pursue and hold personally liable any responsible persons for failure to pay payroll taxes – and that includes board members.

  4. Michelle

    I am a bookkeeper working for a small nfp and they have also asked me to be their treasurer. I am semi retired and have been in working corporately so have a lot of experience that is useful to them. I understand that this could be a conflict but I feel I have a lot to offer in both roles. Do you have any advice on this.

    • Gayle Gifford

      Usually board members are unpaid. And when a board member does work with an organization, the nonprofit needs to make sure that the hiring is at an arms length transaction.
      My biggest concern is oversight and internal controls, especially for a small nonprofit. When the bookkeeper and the Treasurer are the same person, who is checking whom?

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