3 Steps to Avoid Resentment After Rejecting a Board Member
When someone has been a volunteer, annual donor or dues-paying member, they may seem like a great prospective board member, but what happens when you have to reject that board member? Do you also lose your volunteer, annual donor or dues-paying member? Let’s take a look at this hypothetical scenario.
A current board member calls or approaches this person about their interest in serving as a board member. The current board member describes the experience and knowledge that is being sought. The prospective board member reviews their resume, says, “why not me?” and completes the application.
What happens next? Someone from the board recruitment or governance committee tells the prospective board member they are being considered for a seat and would like to chat more. During this conversation, the prospective board member describes why they would be a great addition to the board.
At a later time, the prospective board member receives a call or letter that says they have not been selected for a board seat. The usual and mostly vague explanation is that more candidates applied than seats were available. Generally, the organization does not provide information on who was selected, but it might encourage the prospective member to apply again when the next opening occurs. What went wrong?
Flashback to a time when you weren’t picked for a team. The reality: You, like most folks, never forget the experience. Rejection always hurts or at least irritates and not just for the moment.
Being rejected for a board seat, particularly from a nonprofit whose mission is particularly important to the applicant, produces confusion and anger. Confusion can be addressed with a phone call or letter to gain clarity about the rejection. Anger on the other hand is a result that few development officers welcome. No more volunteering. No more annual giving. No more special gifts. No more referrals to other possible donors.
To avoid confusion and resentment from rejected board members, here are three tips to produce a better outcome — for both the rejected board candidate and the nonprofit.
1. Recruit Volunteers Not Board Members
The essential characteristic for a prospective and current board member is passion. This is developed from personal history and values and is nurtured or developed through volunteer opportunities. Providing opportunities for a wide range of volunteers, especially those who benefit from a nonprofit’s offerings, has a possibility of producing strong board candidates.
2. Clearly Establish the Criteria for Selection
Provide prospective members a crystal-clear understanding as to the criteria and process for selection to help remove the mystery and lower expectations around “why not me?” This understanding should be provided on day No. 1 of the pitch for an opportunity to be considered for a board seat and reinforced throughout the selection process.
Rejected prospects will be more understanding when not selected if they can recognize that other skills or experiences may be more important for the nonprofit at this moment in time. Recruiters should, of course, be aware of the board’s needs when the processes begin.
3. Value and Practice Closure During the Selection Process
With an objective of positively maintaining a relationship with current or prospective passionate volunteers and donors, selection committee members should ask themselves the question: How would you want to be notified and what would you want to be told when learning you will not become a board member?
One hint: Don’t notify them by email. Email is principally transactional and, perhaps like mailed correspondence, not relational. However, a phone call can suffice fairly well.
These tips share two cross-cutting themes:
- Communication. At the beginning, in the middle, at the end and after recognize that communication drives relationships and boards to fulfill their role best when relationships are strong.
- Human resources. Know that the board recruitment and selection processes mirror what is done in the human resource recruitment and selection processes. The use of well-developed HR practices can inform and address many of the otherwise experienced roadblocks and missteps in every recruitment and selection process.
No one should have to relive that woeful day when their fate included rejection, so embrace these three tips to let them down easy.
The preceding blog was provided by an individual unaffiliated with NonProfit PRO. The views expressed within do not directly reflect the thoughts or opinions of NonProfit PRO.