Do you have an Ex Officio Director on your board? Do you allow honorary directors on your board but don’t require (or allow) them to vote? If you answered “yes” to either of these questions, then you may be operating out of compliance with an important nuance found in California’s Nonprofit Corporations Code.
Fortunately, there are simple solutions to clear up these issues. Let’s explore the rules and steps to ensure that your organization is in compliance:
Non-voting board members cannot serve on California nonprofit boards.
Gene Takagi states, “any person entitled to attend board meetings without a vote is not a board member at all.” Non-voting board members can lead to confusion (do they count towards a quorum?) and can mislead other board members (do their opinions matter if they can’t vote?).
To fix it: Move non-voting board members onto an Advisory Committee. Or, if you’d like to extend voting rights to these individuals, review your bylaws to make sure you have room for more board members and revisit the process of electing new board members. Your board can vote to bring them on as regular board of directors. If your bylaws state that non-voting board members are allowed, contact Spokes for a Bylaw Review to correct your bylaws today!
Ex Officio Directors automatically hold a position on your board because of a position that they hold outside of the board.
It’s rare to need Ex Officio Director positions in 501c3s. This position is more common in 501c6s, such as Chambers of Commerce, where the CEO /Executive Director often holds a position on the board. For further clarification, the NEO Law Group outlines many scenarios where this arrangement might make sense. However, if your organization labels non-voting board members as Ex Officio, you’ll want to correct this immediately.
To fix it: Either (1) move non-voting members onto an Advisory Committee, or (2) invest them with the same voting rights and responsibilities of every other board of director serving your organization. To stay in compliance, ensure that your board policies, bylaws, and culture do not limit the actions of Ex Officio board members.
Honorary Director, Director Emeritus, and Advisory Director are misleading titles.
The term “director” is a legal definition that sets forth duties of care, loyalty, and obedience specifically for board members.
To fix it: Identify new terms to honor these special advisors in your organization. To stay clear on the roles of your organizational volunteers, be certain not to use the word “director” for anyone who doesn’t serve on your board of directors.
Advisory Boards are actually Advisory Committees.
Only one board can exist in your organization, and that is the board of directors.
To fix it: Simply update your bylaws and policies so all advisory bodies are labeled as committees.
Staying in compliance with the Nonprofit Corporations Code is critical to your organization’s success. Your board of directors and advisory committees will function more efficiently once you clarify and adhere to these important regulations. If you have questions about board of directors versus advisory or honorary roles, reach out to Spokes for support at 805-547-2244 or firstname.lastname@example.org.