My wife and I were recently asked to join the board of directors for a new nonprofit (a church) that is seeking 501(c)(3) charitable status. What effect, if any, might this have on our taxes or other financial activities, i.e. opening a bank account, getting a new credit card, credit scores, etc.?
I am not an expert on credit reports or opening bank accounts, but I don’t think that the credit reports I see in connection with new clients ever say anything about the person’s participation on nonprofit boards. They do list litigation and judgments against the person, but nothing about service itself as an indication of creditworthiness.
If you serve as a volunteer, as most nonprofit directors do, there will be no impact on your taxes. If you are paid, you will have to pay taxes the same as you would on any other income.
Your concern should not be about participation but more about assuring that you fulfill your fiduciary duties with respect to the new organization. Very few directors are ever found personally liable for their acts or failure to act on behalf of a nonprofit corporation. There are many things organizations can do to reduce the legal risks of personal financial liability. (See Ready Reference Page: “Directors Often Fear Risks of Personal Liability”)
A greater risk is the reputational risk if things go radically wrong in a way that becomes publicly known. If there is a major scandal, the public usually asks: “where was the board?” The best way to avoid that question is to assure that the board has good policies in place with respect to compliance issues and follows those policies where applicable. The board is responsible for oversight of the management and operations. It can best protect the directors — and the organization — by assuring that the oversight is effective.