How to Remove a Problematic Board Member

by Danielle Bloom

2 min read

Even when nonprofits take their time in selecting board members, there are instances when the relationship goes bad. Suppose a member begins dominating board meetings, comes to meetings unprepared or talks about the organization’s private business outside the board meeting. When you must eliminate a member from the board, you want to use caution to ensure you minimize the harm to the individual and the nonprofit organization.

Communicate

In nonprofit organizations, communication is the key to a successful operation. If a board member is not meeting expectations, communicate those expectations again. Some board members come to the realization the board is not a good fit for them and offer a resignation. For others, your first talk can be redemptive and help the member to refocus efforts for the good of the organization. If a member promises to improve, monitor the individual’s performance.

Consult the By-Laws

To register as a nonprofit, the government requires an organization to develop by-laws. These rules of operation may assist with selecting and dismissing board members. Some by-laws address specific reasons for an organization to dismiss a board member and outline the process for the dismissal.

Protect Dignity

Removing a board member is often a delicate matter. Asking an individual to step down or forcibly removing the person has the potential of splitting a board or otherwise harming the organization. When approaching the individual, protect personal dignity by expressing gratitude for the work that was done. Offer the offending board member the chance to resign and avoid using the term “fire.”

Develop an Exit Strategy

Even if the offending board member recognizes the problem and agrees to resign, such resignations often cause harm to the organization. In nonprofits that are dependent on donations for funding the mission of the organization, the loss of a board member raises the suspicions of the public and often decreases funding. A well-planned exit strategy, including a carefully worded joint statement, helps to reduce the effect on the organization. A statement that a board member needs to leave due to other obligations helps to maintain the member’s dignity and the organization’s integrity.

Consider Other Options

Members may recognize they are not the right individual for the board but remain reluctant to resign. One option is to offer a leave of absence. The member completes the term without attending meetings or voting, and receives credit for service. This option minimizes further damage to the board or nonprofit. For members facing legal issues, resignation or removing the member may help minimize the damage to the reputation of the group.

Learn From Your Mistakes

Many times, the need to remove a board member is avoidable. When selecting a board, nonprofits should take time to interview board members, and members should have a thorough understanding of the organization’s requirements and expectations before accepting the position. The loss of a board member through resignation or removal is often difficult for nonprofits. Approaching such loss correctly helps to minimize its impact while allowing the organization to continue providing services. Nonprofits that learn from the experience reduce the potential for nonperforming board members and often grow stronger after the ordeal.

References & Resources

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