ANONYMOUS QUESTION: Inactive Board Members

In every Nonprofit Jenni Show podcast episode, I answer an anonymous question submitted by someone who works for a nonprofit or serves on a nonprofit organization’s board of directors. These questions may cover controversial topics, or may just come from someone who doesn’t want to be publicly associated with asking the question. Please subscribe to my podcast to make sure you catch all the advice I give from my anonymous Q&A segment!

In my recent episode on nonprofit public relations, I answered the question, “How do I address board members who aren't fulfilling their commitments?”

If you've been in the nonprofit world for any length of time, you've heard of or worked with board members who just don't carry their weight in the organization. Maybe they aren't attending board members, engaging with their committees, helping you make valuable connections and fundraising, or paying their dues. Whatever the issue, you definitely need to address this issue before it continues or causes an apathetic attitude to spread to other board members.

Before you unnecessarily burn any bridges, I recommend bringing up the issue in a casual way. Ask the board member about how they're doing in general, and ask them directly if anything has changed which may be affecting their performance on the board. Let them know gently that you've noticed a decline in their engagement in the board. You never know what could be going on in their personal life or what issues may be bothering them.

If things don't improve after a month or two, I would pull aside the board member with one other individual to have a formal discussion. The Executive Director definitely should lead the conversation, with someone else who really supports the E.D. as the other individual, such as the Development Director or COO. Pull out your Board of Directors contract which outlines the commitment the board member has signed, and let them know your concerns that they won't fulfill the agreement. The board member may choose to leave on their own at this point, or let you know what has changed or what concerns they have about the organization.

If this conversation still doesn't lead to positive change, it's time to respectfully relieve the board member of their duties. Suggest other ways the individual can remain involved, such as through a volunteer position, or even continuing with the board committees they were previously a part of (just not as a voting member any longer).

I answer an anonymous Q&A submitted by a nonprofit professional in every episode of the Nonprofit Jenni Show. Be sure to subscribe to hear them all!