Nonprofit Accounting Basics

Size of the Board

Size of Organization: 

State laws determine the minimum size for nonprofit boards. In most states it is three. However, the number varies so you should be familiar with your state statutes. It is important to realize that the legal limit is not the same as an ideal solution. The law defines the lowest acceptable standards. Actual need - what must be accomplished - determines the optimal size for any specific organization. Three board members rarely possess sufficient outlook and capacity to govern an organization that must meet internal and external challenges.

You should define the guidelines for your board size in your bylaws, but do not state a specific number - that only invites trouble and may unpredictably force you to operate against your legal document. Set an acceptable range that allows you to keep functioning if a board member leaves unexpectedly or if you want to add a new member with desired skills.

First boards often are smaller than the more established boards. The founding board serves a very specific function but, at the same time, it must realize its limits and constantly assess the needs during the various phases of the organization's life cycle.