Your hopes were high for the new board member. She has a stellar reputation and is THE SOCIAL BUTTERFLY—someone known for her connections. You and your fellow board members thought that recruiting her to your board would be a huge victory—she would be an ambassador who would share your story in circles you could only dream of and she’d provide greater access to influencers with the big bucks—those who could make the organization’s bold vision come to life in a nano-second with all of the wealth they hold.

Sadly, your hopes for the new addition have all but disappeared. She’s been on the board for 18 months—plenty of time to get comfortable and familiar with your work, yet little to show for it. It would be a miracle if she actually showed up to board meetings and a bonus if she was on time for those she did actually attend. Gotta love those board members who like to make a grand entrance 30 minutes in and then disrupt the meeting with profuse apologies. Even worse, she acts like she’s doing YOU a favor by being on the board.

Over a stiff drink (or five) with one of your closest friends, you share your disappointment and frustration. Why can’t others see how important this mission is? Why are you one of only a handful of board members who takes their commitment seriously?

Your friend asks you if you can just remove this bad seed. You respond, “If only it were that easy.” The reality is this isn’t a simple process, and to some degree, you’re kicking yourself and the rest of your board for not doing more due diligence when recruiting. When you think about some of the problem board members you’ve had over the years, several things come to mind:

Board members who…

  • Regularly miss meetings
  • Pursue a personal agenda also known as pet projects
  • Have a big ego, doling out advice rather than listening and asking questions
  • Refuse to help fundraise
  • Fail to handle confidential information securely
  • Dive into operations when there are plenty of staff who are getting paid to do this
  • Never follow through or complete tasks
  • Fail to disclose conflicts of interest
  • Assume they know the lives of your beneficiaries when they have no clue
  • Monopolize board discussions OR don’t participate at all
  • Behave inappropriately or disrespectfully

As you drown yourself in your sorrows, you let out a heavy sigh. Perhaps it’s time to work with your Governance Committee to figure out a graceful exit strategy for these board members who are causing grief. Afterall, every seat that is filled with an ineffective board member is a seat that could be filled with someone who cares, someone whose service will actually help those you serve.