To Board or Not To Board: The Governance Question

Guest blog by: Laurie Horvath, Marketing Manager, Baker Tilly US, LLP

Governance boards are always looking for qualified members to assist them with overseeing and guiding the cogs that keep their organizations operating and, most importantly, making a difference. In fact, CPAs are among the most sought-after professionals in the board arena. While the MICPA  encourages its members to get involved in their communities, there are some factors to consider when thinking about committing your time and talent as a board member for any organization.


To capture what CPAs and financial professionals should evaluate when approached as a board candidate, we sat down with MICPA Nonprofit Task Force members Laurie Horvath, CPA, and partner at Baker Tilly, and Robert Seestadt, CPA, and partner at Apparatus Solutions Inc., for their insights on the associated opportunities and obligations.


“One of the most important objectives of a nonprofit organization is stewardship and fiduciary responsibility…a CPA is a logical fit there,” Horvath says. “They need someone to be a good steward of the assets they’re governing, who understands reporting requirements and what is happening financially.”


“Another factor, I think, is their [CPA’s] ability to see and understand trends, ratios and other kinds of relationships between investment in programs and results and outcomes.” Seestadt adds, “That’s an area where CPAs can have a real impact.”


Before joining any board, however, it is important to research the organization to ensure that the structure is sound. “In my mind, there’s kind of a checklist: requesting and reviewing financial information and tapping resources such as Guidestar and Charity Navigator for information on the organization even beyond financials.” Seestadt advises, “Ask for minutes from past meetings to glean their hot-button issues and to gauge the level of board engagement. Also, meet with leadership of the organization ahead of time and understand expectations.”


It is important to factor in the time commitment involved and how that might interact with one’s current workload. “CPAs have a lot of demands on their time,” Horvath explains, “so making sure it’s a fit in terms of time commitment and personal interest are very important.”


Assuming one has the time and the interest, Seestadt highlights several opportunities to be found in volunteering as a member of a governance board, from gaining insight into how other organizations work to regularly engaging with experts in other industries. “The networking is a tremendous opportunity,” he says. “You’re often times meeting and engaging with leaders in the business community, and that’s an intangible value.”


Horvath adds that becoming a member of a board can also present a break from the norm, offering CPAs a chance to explore different responsibilities and roles. “It’s a nice change of pace sometimes,” she explains, “to use some of the other skills we’ve acquired and a way to give back to our community.”


More questions on this topic? Continue the conversation on MICPA Connect and look for these opportunities to learn and discuss further this fall.

  • Nonprofit Conference
  • New Board Member 101