Annual Board To-Dos: The Must-Have Checklist for Running a Foundation - Exponent Philanthropy
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Annual Board To-Dos: The Must-Have Checklist for Running a Foundation

Photo by Tara Winstead

What’s on the agenda for your board this year? Are you covering the bases of good governance? Maintaining a checklist of annual to-dos can be an easy way to keep your foundation up to date and on-track. A checklist for your board can serve as a reminder of your legal obligations and governance best practices.

This checklist, designed for established foundations (not start-ups), offers a list of recommended and legally required action items. We encourage you to make it your own. It lists both legal obligations and recommended action items. Those that are required by law are in bold; others are recommended. Items on the list should be done annually or as noted in parentheses.

If your foundation has staff, keep in mind that the board is responsible for ensuring that tasks are completed. Some tasks cannot be delegated but must be done by the board, including approval of the foundation’s mission, bylaws, meeting minutes, budgets, grants, insurance, and investment strategies. Also, in addition to these tasks, the board must understand and follow the private foundation rules and the fiduciary duties of care, loyalty, and obedience.

Action Items


Tax and Legal

  • Federal income taxFile Form 990-PF (and Form 990-T, if appropriate) and pay excise tax.
  • State corporate filing—File in every state the foundation is registered, if the foundation is incorporated (usually annually; however, in some states, file every two years) .
  • State income tax—File the form if required, depending on the state (annually, if required).
  • Employment taxesIf the foundation has paid staff, pay employment taxes (varies).
  • Local property tax or tax exemption—File, if applicable and required (varies).
  • State sales tax exemption—File, if available, depending on state law (varies).
  • Professional advice—Check with an attorney or CPA to ensure that there are no additional requirements in your locality (as appropriate).

Financial Oversight and Investments



  • Board meetings—Remind and give notice to board members of dates, times, and locations; send financial reports, investment reports, previous meeting minutes, and appropriate grantmaking information; and facilitate communication among members (between meetings).
  • Recordkeeping—Maintain foundation records in binders or files that contain incorporation documents, bylaws, Internal Revenue Service tax-exempt determination letter, and any other correspondence; board policies; meeting minutes; and filed tax and legal forms (update as needed or after each meeting).
  • Bookkeeping—Write and track checks, balance accounts, and prepare financial reports (monthly).
  • Meeting minutes—Prepare and distribute minutes (after each meeting).
  • Grantmaking—Collect applications, write checks, and collect grant reports (each grant cycle).
  • Technology—Assess and update systems, including phone, fax, e-mail, website, antivirus, and spam filter software (as needed).
  • Technology policy—Review and update (annually).
  • Payroll—Pay staff (each payroll period).

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