Nonprofit Board Members Are Frustrated

Board member performance is the subject of frequent frustration and criticism by nonprofit leaders.

Because these complaints are so persistent, I reached out to board members to get their perspective on possible causes for this ongoing negativity.

The results proved quite interesting because the collective response reveals a common connection: Board members are frustrated, too.

They shared with me that in the beginning they feel the time they give to volunteering with a nonprofit is taken seriously.

However, it should be no surprise that their positive attitude changes when the experience doesn’t turn out as they expected.

Board members say they become discouraged when the nonprofits they are trying to serve don’t work to develop positive relationships with them.

Discouragement leads to frustration which progresses into nonperformance.

A key to successful long-term relationships is good communication. And board members identify communication-related issues as causing much of their frustration.

A prime example of failure to communicate successfully is assumed expectation. I often find an organization’s expectations for board members don’t match up with the expectations of the board members themselves.

In the view of many organizations, solutions for solving frustration with board member performance revolve around “fixing” the board members.

Successful relationships take both parties working together. Likewise, in a failed relationship, usually both parties share responsibility.

That being said, my suggestion, based on board member input, is to shift the focus from fixing the board member to fixing the relationship. And a good place for nonprofit leaders to start is by looking at themselves.

What behavior changes will contribute to a more positive relationship?

Here are two actions that will help:

  • Initiate conversation with board members about how communication with them can be improved.
  • Ask for their suggestions about how their board experience can be improved.

The pro-active approach of focusing on the actual problem–relationships–rather than on the board member, reduces frustration for both board members and nonprofit leaders.

It lays a solid foundation for positive relationships and for a win-win-win situation.

The board members win, the organization leaders win–and furthermore, the cause of the nonprofit cannot help but be better served.

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