Our board is looking to know legalities a nonprofit board should be aware of in deciding how to handle or invest a financial reserve.
When one of our nonprofits approached Spokes for help with that topic, our first reply was, “We are not attorneys, tax experts, or financial advisors.” That said, we can offer practical suggestions based on our experience with the many nonprofits we serve.
The most important thing to keep in mind is the board’s fiduciary responsibility to the organization. As part of that responsibility it must act with prudence and with the organization’s best interests in mind.
California has adopted the Uniform Prudent Management of Institutional Funds Act (UPMIFA), which provides guidelines for the investment and management of nonprofit institutional funds. It includes eight factors to consider:
- General economic conditions.
- The possible effect of inflation or deflation.
- The expected tax consequences, if any, of investment decisions or strategies.
- The role that each investment or course of action plays within the overall investment portfolio of the fund.
- The expected total return from income and the appreciation of investments.
- Other resources of the institution.
- The needs of the institution and the fund to make distributions and to preserve capital.
- An asset’s special relationship or special value, if any, to the charitable purposes of the institution.
In San Luis Obispo County, some of our smaller nonprofits with surplus funds have placed them in FDIC-insured certificates of deposit with varying terms to ensure that funds are available when needed. Nonprofits with greater reserves will want to adopt a sound investment policy in line with UPMIFA.