I’m a Treasurer on a Non-Profit Board. Now What???

Early on in my career, I was asked to be a treasurer of a nonprofit board of directors. At the time, I was on maternity leave, worked in the finance space, and thought this organization, near my home, was a good place to stay involved and make some friends while I stayed home for a year with my child.

A decade and a half later, I’ve served on 10+ boards of directors, spent 15 years working with nonprofits in a consulting capacity, and now have two teenagers (and two fur babies). I have some observations from serving and working in this sector.

The Role of Treasurer

The role of treasurer, for all intents and purposes, is an important one. Not to detract from board presidents, VPs, secretaries, and other members at large, but the role of treasurer is one of the most active on any board, even on governance boards. You spend your time asking questions, sifting through reports, balancing being helpful with being difficult, and explaining financial documentation to non-finance people. As a CPA, you take personal liability for every finance document produced, whether or not you worked on it, simply because your role as treasurer requires you to take responsibility for them, even in an oversight capacity. You are generally seen as a pain, interfering and always trying to improve reporting and processes.

Challenges Faced by Treasurers

So, with all of this, why do treasurers continue to volunteer for roles such as this? Well, truth be told, fewer of them are. The hours of thankless work, the liability, the increased pressure on nonprofit organizations to do more with less create a situation of greater risk of financial mismanagement and impropriety. Every nonprofit I know has a more difficult time recruiting board treasurers. If you are lucky, you find a retired one that is willing to give you a few hours, but all in all, it is very difficult to find and keep good treasurers.

Improving Support for Treasurers

Does it have to be this way? I would say that in my experience, no. We do not support board treasurers in a way that we support board presidents. Most board presidents have an outgoing president that serves as a past president. Their role is easier to fill. It is public and more visible. Most treasurers who sign up for roles have no idea what they are signing up for. The role descriptions are vague and non-committal. They don’t detail the number of hours of work, the meetings, or the liability.

Better Training and Resources

Board retention for treasurers would be better with strong job shadowing and a proper training program that would help train treasurers, whether or not they came from a finance background. You do not need to be a CPA to be a board treasurer. In many ways, non-finance people make better treasurers, particularly for governance boards. We wrote about this in another article.

Seeking Support and Resources

If you are a treasurer, reach out to other treasurers as a starting point. Most are very kind people who will gladly donate some time to help you out.

The next step is to use the internet to look for articles like this one. This will help you to not feel so alone. Perhaps you want to take a financial statements course, an accounting course, a leadership or strategy course. Whatever your need is, there is education out there.

Steps Forward

So where do we go from here? Offering solid training to your treasurers, with coaching and ongoing support, is a needed resource to help encourage board recruitment and retention. There are even some individuals who offer Treasurer and/or Finance manager coaching and support packages for busy Treasurers and/or larger organizations.

Regardless of the type of resources, if you are still feeling lost, don’t quit. Instead, look for courses like our Treasurers’ Fundamentals course to help you get started and give you the tools, footing, and resources you need to grow into your role while feeling supported. It has nine modules and covers areas from financial statements to nonprofit accounting. It is part of our non-profit portal and available with your annual membership.


Being a treasurer is not an easy role. With the right help, any individual can grow into a treasurer role and successfully contribute to causes they hold dear.

If you have any questions about being a treasurer, serving on a board, or are just looking for support, please feel free to reach out to me

If you found value in this blog, we would love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact hello@pharononprofit.com to give us feedback, ask questions or leave your comments.
You can also access more content on this and other issues facing nonprofits by joining our free or premium memberships at: https://pharononprofit.com/join-now/





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