Volunteer board members are not held liable

I just learned (through TheRoysReoprt) that volunteer nonprofit board members are frequently immune from any liabilities facing the nonporift.

Compensated board members may not have that same protection. That’s one of the reasons why many nonprofit experts discourage paying board members.

I frequently explain to homeschool group leaders that board members in a nonprofit should not be compensated. There are lots of good reasons for that and here’s one more:

Serving as a volunteer board member means that you will not be held liable for civil lawsuits, injuries, deaths or loss.

This volunteer protection may vary by state. I’m in Ohio and Ohio laws says this:

A volunteer is not liable in damages in a civil action for injury, death, or loss to person or property that arises from the actions or omissions of any of the officers, employees, trustees, or other volunteers of the charitable organization for which the volunteer performs services…”


Now almost all laws have caveats, so read the full law in context.


A volunteer is not immune from liabilities if:

  • With prior knowledge of an action or omission of a particular officer, employee, trustee, or other volunteer, the volunteer authorizes, approves, or otherwise actively participates in that action or omission.
  • After an action or omission of a particular officer, employee, trustee, or other volunteer, the volunteer, with full knowledge of that action or omission, ratifies it.
  • An action or omission of the volunteer constitutes negligence, willful or wanton misconduct, or intentionally tortious conduct.

In other words, knowingly committing an action or omission, being grossly negligent, or willful misconduct (to name a few) is not immune from liability, even for a volunteer.

So do you job as a board member, manage the organization well, put the interests of the organization before your own, and don’t lie, cheat or steal!

You might find my Board Member Manual helpful as you understand board duties. It’s a template for organizing your nonprofits important papers and a board training manual.

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