Most board members say that they are honored to be associated with their favorite non-profit, whether it is an educational, arts, cultural, human services, or religious institution. As we work with these non-profits to assist them with strategy; in procuring financial resources; developing, coaching, and mentoring leadership; or defining mission, vision and case; we interact with volunteer leadership across a broad spectrum.
We frequently hear that most board members are satisfied with their board service overall. That is good news.
But there are a good number who express specific concerns about the management of their board time and service. What are board members’ primary complaints about their non-profit institution?
A survey of some of our current and former clients revealed the following suggestions to implement, if you wish to ensure board member dissatisfaction.
- Change or cancel board meetings at the last minute. After all, you need to make sure that the meeting will be convenient for you, the staff, and that there will be nothing else on the horizon. More importantly you want to make sure that you have plenty of time to prepare reports. No, make that most importantly, you want to make sure you have accomplished something toward your strategic plan or fundraising goals before you bring the board together again. The top complaint by chief executives is that some board members do not regularly attend meetings. This is frequently paired with board members’ complaints that meetings start late or are postponed or cancelled. Sometimes, a last minute change is unavoidable, and because there are these unforeseen incidents (inclement weather, power outages, etc.) it is even more troubling when meetings are rescheduled for seemingly insignificant reasons. There are some organizations that have made a habit of moving meetings around. One board member told me that she no longer puts the board meetings on the calendar until the final reminder is sent as the organization frequently changes the time or date.
- Do not send out materials in advance of a meeting. One institution of higher education distributed its audit the day the board was expected to approve it. Even more shocking was that the board approved it; although, steps have been taken according to the board member who reported this, to ensure that adequate time for a thorough review will be provided in the future.
- Let the executive director give long oral reports of the minutia of their job at the board meetings. It certainly isn’t the best use of a board member’s time to listen to a lengthy monologue, and not be asked for input.
- Prepare lengthy agendas, which are never completed. Several board members have complained that their organization never makes it to the end of the agenda, or that if it does, the last items are short-changed.