Dead Weight.

So, you’ve completed the Board Member Assessment Worksheet and you realize that you have some pretty talented and skilled Board members. However, you may have also discovered that some of your Board members are not contributing a valuable skill, talent or demographic. What do you do about this “dead weight”?

The easy answer is: find a new role for them.

Often these “dead weight” folks have been involved for a long time and have quite a bit of history and passion for the organization. But, they are no longer serving a purpose on your Board. I recently faced this situation with a client. We wanted to honor those who had served a long time with the Board, but we needed to find a new role for them — outside of the Board.

Step One: Sit down one-on-one with the Board member.

I would recommend scheduling a one-on-one meeting with this Board member. This meeting should probably include the Board Chair, Executive Director and any other key Board members. Ask the Board member about his/her role on the Board and how they see this role moving forward.

Step Two: Thank them!

Let them know how much you appreciate them and their long-term commitment.

Step Three: Offer them a new role.

Try to be as candid as you can with the Board member without hurting their feelings (remember this Board member is probably a long-time donor and supporter too!). I would recommend having this conversation a couple of months before the Board members term is up (I am a strong believer in terms being 2 years with an opportunity to serve up to 3 consecutive terms. There should be no lifetime Board members!) Address the Board term and let them know that you need their leadership in another capacity.

Options:
• Be a mentor to a new Board member
• Join the Honorary Board or Advisory Committee (description below)!
• Chair a fundraising event
• Head up a special project

An Honorary Board/Advisory Committee serves many purposes including a great place for past Board members to find a new home.

Description: The Honorary Board recognizes special women and men who have contributed to the organization. The Honorary Board is made up of non-voting members who are committed to the mission of the organization and who lend their names in support of the organization. The Honorary Board of Directors provides leadership, service and financial support to the organization. Honorary Board Members are elected by and serve at the pleasure of the Board of Directors, hold a two-year term, and may be re-elected indefinitely, at the discretion of the Board. Honorary Board members are not required to attend Board meetings but may do so at the discretion of the Board of Directors. The Honorary Board is an optional board and there is no limit to the number of Directors who can serve. Honorary Board members are required to give a substantial donation in cash, in-kind or equivalent each year to the organization through their individual, corporate, family or private foundation funds.

Step Four: Recognize and Honor.

Hopefully, your conversation goes well with this Board member and they are willing to accept their new role. At the next Board meeting (or when appropriate), recognize them in front of their peers. Give them a memento to honor their years of service.

Step Five: Exit Interview.

Ask this Board member to complete an Exit Interview survey. This lets them know they are valued as they are “exiting” the Board and also asks for their valuable feedback. Here are some sample questions:

1. How would you describe your overall Board experience? Did you feel your talents and experience were used and your perspective respected?
2. What were the biggest challenges to you in performing your board responsibilities?
3. What could the board or staff have done to improve your experience?
4. Did you feel the expectations of you as a board member were realistic? If not, why not?
5. How do you think the board as a whole function? What improvements to meetings or structure would you suggest?
6. What did you enjoy most about your board experience?

Dead Weight: Absentee.

If your “dead weight” Board member has also been M.I.A., it would be appropriate for the Board Chair to call this member and discuss their commitment to the Board. If this member is not showing up for meetings, they may be demonstrating their lack of commitment or involvement. This Board member may not want a new role in the organization. I would recommend completing steps 4 and 5 with them.

Dead Weight: Detrimental.

Occasionally, you will have a Board member who is committing actions that are extremely detrimental to the organization and it is not appropriate to deal with the situation as suggested with steps 1-5. I would recommend meeting one-on-one with this Board member and in a professional, but direct manner explain the detrimental actions that the Board member is committing. Let them know their past commitment has been appreciated but their current behavior will not be tolerated. Graciously ask them to submit their resignation to the Board Chair. If they will not comply with this, the Board Chair will need to bring their resignation to a vote at the next Board meeting and the Board member will be asked to leave immediately.

The Board Development blog series will continue with a fresh blog out on Friday discussing how to get your Board “on board”.

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2 thoughts on “Dead Weight.

  1. In handing the MIA board members, I would also suggest discussing with exisiting (and present board members). I had a similar experience recently and had a frank discussion with the chair. It seems that the board members who actually showed for the meetings felt “put upon” and resentful that X and Y were consistent “no shows”. This lead to the board revising the bylaws to include a provision for “minimum number of meetings” where attendance was expected. Said provision also included consequences for failure to show. Overall it worked nicely. I actually think that the MIA’s were looking for a way out but were the “non confrontational” sorts who would skirt the attendance issue when confronted.

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