How can a nonprofit board receive benefits (properly)?

A homeschool organization sent me their bylaws to look over. They had two conflicting statements about offering compensation or benefits to their board members, especially the officers (the officers of a nonprofit organization are President/Chair, VP, Secretary and Treasurer).

Article 4 Section 1 Board members shall receive no compensation (other than reasonable expenses) for their service on the Board.”

Article 5 Section 4 Officers of the Board are eligible for benefits such as discounts, retreats and/or priority registration as well as other meeting expenses deemed reasonable by majority vote.

So which is it? Are officers allowed compensation/benefits or not? Tuition discounts are taxable compensation according to the IRS (unless they are “insignificant“).

Also the benefits are approved by a “majority vote.” Majority of whom? The board? This organization has no voting members except the board. And a nonprofit board cannot vote themselves benefits because that is a conflict of interest and private benefit which is forbidden by the IRS (if excessive).

I understand the desire to thank hard-working board officers, but be careful that it doesn’t become taxable income or a conflict or interest or worse private inurement which is forbidden by the IRS for 501(c)(3) organizations.

Here’s what I recommend:
1. Change the wording of Article 5 Section 4 to read Officers of the Board are eligible for  benefits (such as insignificant discounts, training (retreats and conferences) and/or priority registration) deemed reasonable, but not significant enough to be taxable income, by majority vote of the non-officers of the board or recommended by an independent committee.

and then

2. Hold a board meeting where the officers leave the room and the remaining board members vote on what benefits the officers will receive that year. That means you need to have a large enough board to do this. And it needs to be done every year.

Or

appoint an independent committee (no one on the committee is related to any of the officers) to make a recommendation. The board votes to accept the committee’s recommendation (but without the officers allowed to vote since they will personally benefit).

These changes in their bylaws and having other board members vote for the officer benefits will keep the organization from having a #1) conflict of interest and #2) the appearance of private benefit. It also means the officers are being thanked for their service without receiving any taxable income.

 

If your organization needs help in understanding how to thank your board members (properly), read

or my new Homeschool Organization Board Manual. It’s a template for you to create your own board manuals as a place to store important papers and policies.

Carol Topp, CPA

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