Your not-for-profit has probably spent a lot of time and effort attracting board members who have the knowledge, enthusiasm and commitment to make a difference to your organization.
Nonprofit boards are vital. They advance an organization’s mission. They provide oversight of an organization’s operations and finances. In short, nonprofit boards ensure the overall success of the organizations they oversee. Unfortunately, if you realize you have an ineffective board of directors, you may find yourself in the tough position of firing a board member, or a few members, who no longer contribute positively to your organization.
Dealing with difficult board members can be toxic to your organization. Be on the lookout for the following behaviors, and pay particular attention to members who:
- Regularly miss meetings. Everyone has time conflicts now and then, but a chronically absent member drags down your board’s productivity and lowers morale among other members.
- Don’t accept or complete tasks. Board members who aren’t willing to assume their share of the work force other members to pick up the slack.
- Are motivated by personal agendas. Board members who pursue their own interests can waste time trying to convince others of their way of thinking — or can steer your nonprofit off course.
- Monopolize — or conversely, never participate in — discussions. There’s a happy medium when it comes to participation. Overbearing members stifle debate and those who sit silently through meetings may not be fully engaged.
- Treat peers disrespectfully. Boards are a team, and their members need to work together amicably.
- Betray confidentiality. Trust is an essential component of the board-organization relationship and your nonprofit can’t afford to have untrustworthy members.
- Don’t disclose conflicts of interest. Board members risk eroding the trust of others, including external stakeholders, if they make (or even appear to be making) decisions that benefit themselves over the best interests of your organization.
- Don’t realize when it’s time to retire. If a longtime board member is preventing your organization from moving forward and staying relevant, it may be time for him or her to move on.
Any of these behaviors can be toxic to your organization. When you find that you have an ineffective board of directors, it’s time to consider firing a board member, or maybe even a few.