I used to hate board meetings. With a passion. So much so that I left a job I loved because of lousy board members.
I dreaded going to our church’s board meetings early in my career. Primarily because of two men.
One board member took it upon himself to question every idea, initiative, and even purchase the staff made. He once asked, “why does a church need a laser printer?” I’m not making this up!
Another man took it upon himself to make sure the staff lived just above the poverty line, even though he lived in a mansion. I remember getting a 2% pay raise on a $20,000 salary! That’s an extra $400 a year! A whopping $16 (before taxes) every paycheck.
I left that job not because I did not enjoy my work but because I felt embattled and unappreciated. I loved the mission, but I didn’t want to spend my time fighting to get to do ministry; instead, I wanted to spend my effort actually doing the work.
After that experience, I promised never to put up with lousy board members. And never become one myself.
Bad board members are easy to define: they are contentious, demanding, and selfish. They have little to contribute and a lot to complain about. But what about good ones?
What does a good board member look like?
When I became a board member for my church, I wanted to embody the qualities I wish every board member I worked with would have. These are the values I tried bringing with me to every meeting:
- Understanding the vision of the organization
- Involvement in the organization beyond board meetings
- Empowering the leadership to do their jobs well
- Being an advocate for the staff
- Contributing financially
- Helping to fundraise by leveraging my network and relationships
- Creating opportunities for growth
- Recruiting volunteers, donors, and potential board members
- Bringing a unique perspective
- Being a problem solver
- Helping create a culture where staff is appreciated and compensated well
So what do you do with members who are not bringing these values to the organization?
Get rid of them. And if you have to change your incorporation documents to have term limits, start as soon as possible.
Too often, people sitting on boards think their job is to second guess and question everything presented to them. If you have to do a lot of that type of work, you should fire the leadership and get competent people in their place.
A good board should help you find ways to continue to resource, build tracks, and fund new initiatives. In other words, a good board should be helping you lead the way and not managing the organization.
If you find yourself hating board meetings, go and start making the changes that will help your organization and your life!
P.S. Download your copy of our new workbook: The 5 Strategies Every Growing Nonprofit Uses