Can Non-profit board members be paid?

By Shantell T.  Ngundu

Non-profit Organizations (NGOs) often wrangle with the idea of paying or not paying their board members. Should board members receive a salary just like any other staff in the organization, or should serve for the common good. This remains a very controversial issue in the NGO sector as some of them feel that Board members should be paid considering the gravity of their roles and responsibilities.

Board Members are elected participants on the board of directors of an organization, they have the overall responsibility for governing the organization. Individuals who sit on the board of directors are responsible for overseeing the organization ‘s activities. They are very critical in the governance process of an organization . However, board members are thought of as volunteers and they should not be paid. Board members volunteer to assist Non-profit Organizations for the benefit of the community without expecting to be paid for the time rendered. The money which could have been paid to board members should go to the community and assist where there is a need.

Proponents of board remuneration argue that paying board members is a way to enhance diversity and skill amongst its leadership, where board members are paid, they can be held more accountable for performance. When board members are paid for their services, they feel indebted to the organization and will do their best to ensure its Sustainability unlike when they are not given anything, they might not give their best towards the organization.

Compensating board members attracts the most qualified individuals because people offer their expertise for free therefore if there is money, they will be in assisting. The organization is able to acquire individuals who are willing to take risks where there are benefits in return.

Non-profits operate to achieve their missions without the motivation of financial gain. Donors and members would rather have their funds spent on programming activities than board fees or sitting allowances as they want to see ownership and commitment from the board members. In practice, board members are normally reimbursed for costs such as transport, accommodation and meals. It is a general expectation that board members are individuals with a vested interest in the cause of the organization and are willing to give their time toward the advancement of the mission. Additionally, they also enhance their professional reputations, establish networks with other influential members of the community. There is also a feel good positive aura about contributing to the community.

Organizations that offer remuneration to board members discourage volunteering by board members in other organizations as this creates some expectation or entitlement for pay. Non-profits serve the public good and should not enrich any person or group of individuals. Ordinary board members are not involved in the daily management of the organization and as such should not be treated as staff, no remuneration should accrue to them. The reason you should serve on a Non-profit board is that you want to make the world a better place. In return one gets the chance to network and meet with the community leaders and other prominent people in the community.