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Help! Some of my Board Members Don’t Do Anything.

Nadia Prescott

As a consultant I hear these words many times! One of the first things I always ask is do your board members know the expectations of the role and responsibilities of the board member in your organization. The onus is initially on you….the board chair or any of the board officers whose responsibility include intervening with board members as necessary.

Sometimes you might have board members who are joining a board for the first time. Others may be more seasoned board members and those of the boards maybe different to yours.

Perhaps they have more staff and there are less requirements for support from board members on a day-to-day basis.

So first things first. Check your board job description and update if necessary. Let’s say all of that is in order. Whose responsibility is it “to do something” about board members who are undependable? After all, there’s nothing worse than attending board meetings and finding out your colleagues are not reliable, and not contributing to the well-being of the organization, and of their volunteer teammates.
Some suggestions:

  • Hold a board meeting where the focus is only on the board. Give yourselves a self-assessment. How did we do last year? What are our goals for the coming year as a team? What are our expectations for each board member? What backup and support systems – particularly around communication and visibility – would make your role easier?
  • Ensure you as the Board Chair meet or talk with board members regularly. Not email or WhatsApp! This way you build trust and communication. You will know if there are issues that prevent your board member from being more active if you know them. If necessary it is also easier to ask the “Do you still want to be on this board” and have the needed conversation.
  • Feed your board members! Not just with food but with education. How many of your board members truly understand financials. And would be willing to say so in front of their peers? How many know how to make a fundraising ask Discussions and actions like these can lead to insights such as the day or even duration board meetings that might make it easier for board members to attend.
  • Sometimes you’ll find board members just need a little check-in and a reminder to be more present and diligent with their duties. Other times it might require more action. It is up to you to find out which situation applies to your organization.

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