Preventing Meddling Board Members

Wed, Jun 25, 2014 at 10:45AM

Hardy Smith Nonprofit Speaker & Consultant

Are board members of nonprofits who cross the line of responsibility a symptom or a problem?

I suggest improperly aggressive board members are a symptom.

This issue occurs because of the lack of an effective process for both recruiting and orientation, which are interrelated problems.

Incorporating screening, giving consideration to personality characteristics, researching past history of board involvement with other organizations, and conducting personal interviews with prospects, should be essential elements in board recruitment.

Properly vetting board candidates up front to determine if they will be a good fit will help prevent involvement issues later.

Surveys from BoardSource report that nonprofit executives are critical of board member knowledge of roles and responsibilities. Should it be a surprise then when less than fully knowledgeable board members act in ways that are considered unacceptable?

Who is responsible for ensuring a board is properly educated in board procedure?

Experience has shown me many organizations don’t give their board member orientation the attention this vital activity deserves.

Approaches like one session and done or even worse, “here’s the manual and let us know if you have any questions” can’t realistically be considered adequate, can they?

Consider utilizing an orientation process that begins with prospective board members’ initial contact and doesn’t end until their involvement on the board is concluded.

Ongoing orientation as part of a board’s continuing education, reinforces important “thou shalt not do that” messages.

Prevent the occurrence of nonprofit or association board members inappropriately crossing the line of their responsibilities by evaluating your process for both recruiting and orientation.

Change current recruitment practices that don’t identify potential problem-causing board members in advance.

If your board members aren’t sufficiently knowledgeable on their roles and responsibilities, consider how your current educational practices can be improved.

Avoid meddling and other improper board behaviors by preventing the problems that cause these symptoms before they begin.


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