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How to Boot a Problem Board Member

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I am often asked how to handle a problematic board member. The question is a good one and most boards will likely be confronted with such a problem at some time.

I turned to Peri Packroo's excellent book, Starting & Building a Nonprofit. Packroo offers a number of suggestions:

  • The board president should deal with problems quickly. Common problems that board members may display are argumentativeness, bullying, rudeness, talking too much, not coming to meetings, and generally showing lack of interest.
  • There is no one-size-fits-all solution to these problems. Sometimes gentle persuasion will get a board member back in line, but, with an overly aggressive member, it might take some sharp and direct confrontation.
  • If after a short trial period after confronting the problem, the board member is still behaving badly, take steps to remove him or her. If it is close to an upcoming election, ask the member to resign so you can find a replacement for the election.
  • Your organization's bylaws should include standards of conduct for the board and term limits. Board member duties and expectations in terms of attendance, and contributions...financial and workload... should be explicitly stated. If these expectations are in place, it is easier to point out a member's deficiencies and to defend the decision to remove a board member.
  • Your organization's bylaws should also address what type of vote will be required to remove a board member such as a majority, two-thirds, or unanimous; and whether board members can be removed without cause.
  • Your state will likely have rules for removing a board member. Some states give the nonprofit complete discretion, while others set certain standards. Be sure that your policy aligns with state regulations. You can usually find these regulations in the corporations code of your state's statutes.
  • Informal methods of managing board members' behavior include providing a general discussion at a meeting about board expectations and how each member can be more effective. This avoids a direct confrontation of any single member.
  • You could also organize a board retreat to build morale, fight burnout, and reenergize your board members. In addition, you might ask experienced board members to mentor new ones for a few months. Many problems may be preempted if board members can use their mentors as a resource and sounding board.

The goal should be to have a inspired board of directors that works smoothly to promote the nonprofit's mission and programs.

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