How to Deal with Troublesome Board Members

Last week,  at the annual meeting of the Association of Fundraising Professionals, in a session called “How to Survive Your Board”, Alice Ferris and James Anderson, founders of GoalBusters Consulting, offered several tips to attendees on how to deal with difficult or unmotivated board members. The full article including more of the strategies shared during the meeting can be found at The Chronicle of Philanthropy .

During the session, conferencegoers were asked to draw pictures depicting characteristics of board members they had difficulty dealing with. Some drawings depicted ghosts to represent board members who don’t show up, another had a microscope on it to represent a board member who micromanages.

Ferris and Anderson offered this advice,

  1. Make sure your board members understand what is expected of them. Knowing what is expected of them ahead of time can weed out those who don’t want to put much effort into their position. It also leaves less room for excuses when members don’t follow through.
  2. Make your board members feel appreciated. Beidonorsng appreciated makes everyone feel good and making your board members feel good about the work they are doing will encourage them to keep it up and maybe even inspire them to do more.
  3. Train your board members in tasks you’d like them to perform. If you want your members completing certain tasks, ensure that they know how to do them.
  4. Establish term limits for board positions. Establishing term limits will allow you to replace members who aren’t following through or working well in your organization and replace them with new ones without damaging any relationships.
  5. Create emeritus board positions. Creating important-sounding board position that have little to no actual responsibility can attract less dedicated members. Then you can fill positions with more responsibility with those who you can count on to handle it.
There may be some board members who will never get easier to work with even after trying these tips. In cases like that, it may be time for you to let that board member go.
Samone Coleman is a junior at the University of Iowa pursuing a degree in Sociology as well as certificates in Fundraising and Philanthropy Communications, Human Rights, and Critical Cultural Competence.  She hopes to one day work as Field Organizer for Amnesty International.  
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