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28 Mar

Stale Boards

I saw an article the other day about how to refresh stale bread.  If only refreshing a stale board was as easy as finding a brown paper bag, adding water and heating. I am afraid that refreshing a stale board is a more difficult and lengthy process. Here are 5 steps to start you on the right track:

Step 1: Assess the current board and their attendance and engagement. Are there board members who should be removed before the term is over for egregious lack of involvement? Are there board members who should not be asked to serve again once their term is up?

Step 2: Review the bylaws to determine the minimum and maximum number of board members required. How many  open seats must the organization fill? How many can it fill?  If there are board members who should be removed before the term is over, are the criteria met for doing so and what is the process?

Step 3: The executive committee and/or the nominating committee should meet and consult with membership, fundraising and programmatic lay people and professionals to seek suggestions for potential board members.  Simultaneously, a list of skill sets and other criteria sought in board members such as geographical and network diversity should be compiled.   The names of prospective board members should be reviewed against the criteria list and ranked.

Step 4: Create or update a document outlining what is required and expected from board members. Prospective board members should be told upfront what the requirements (e.g. give or get, attendance at meetings, committee work etc.) of serving are and what the expectations are beyond the requirements (attend programs and events, serve as ambassador of organization etc.)

Step 5: Ask new board members to serve and be very clear about both the requirements and expectations. The goal of board composition is not to simply fill the seats. The goal for every  board is to attract people who are passionate about the organization and its mission and who have time, energy, skills and resources to serve .

If your organization is having problems attracting new, high-quality board members, it is the board’s job to ask why and to address the underlying issues.


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