Dear Expert: I am on the board of a charitable organization. We want to establish an “emeritus” status for retiring board members.  I think the bylaws would need to be amended to do this. Do you have sample bylaws or procedures? Thank you — Julie

Dear Julie,

You may not need to amend your bylaws to establish an Emeritus Board, but I suggest you have a legal professional familiar with nonprofit law check your bylaws to make sure.  Often, organizations regard the Emeritus Board as another committee. Do your bylaws mention all existing committees or are committees added as the need arises?

That said, before establishing an Emeritus Board, your board should decide:

  • Why are we doing this? Why is it important to the organization? (In this case, is it to honor past board members who have contributed time, money, and energy “above and beyond” during their work on the board or to continue to count on them for knowledge, fundraising, expertise, etc.)
  • What will you expect from members of this group? Attendance at events? Availability for advice to the executive director? Will they be allowed to come to board meetings? Is there a financial expectation?
  • How will the board and staff communicate with the Emeritus Board as a group and with the individuals within the group? An email once a month? More frequently? Less frequently?

This is a discussion to which the whole board should contribute. You might also check the information at BoardSource pertaining to an emeritus board.

All the best,
Editor, Ask the Experts