When board members are unclear about their role or their responsibilities to the organization, they typically become under-involved in governance, bully others or attempt to micromanage operational activities:
Without guidance, some board members become unenthusiastic and perform only the minimum requirements of their position. They may miss meetings or fail to participate in discussions. They may also resist engaging in fundraising activities.
Armed with a desire to make a difference and without an understanding of boundaries that separate board members from staff members, some board members will inject themselves into all avenues of operations. Bypassing the executive director, these board members will contact staff directly with requests. They may also seek direct involvement in project development and planning activities.
The bully turns a nonprofit Board into a corporation of one, and deprives the chief executive and the nonprofit organization of everyone else’s expertise and skills. Bullies often gravitate to top leadership and may become Board Chair. You may erroneously tolerate the Board bully when they:
- need to always be right;
- dominate the conversation;
- may talk over other people;
- get angry and aggressively assert their opinions;
- mock people who don’t agree.
The governance or nominating committee is responsible for board recruitment, board development, and annual/bi-annual performance reviews of board members. This allows the nominating committee to recommend removal or addition of board members, as it benefits the work of the organization. Succession planning and term limits enable boards to grow and refresh its leadership.
Alter the functions and responsibilities of your board of directors as your organization grows beyond founders and start-up, as its governance needs change. Weaning the board from involvement in operations and management may be a consideration and challenge as your organization matures.
Cultivating board leaders is as critical to your organization’s viability as cultivating donors!