Nonprofit Board Governance: Easing Out a Member
Nonprofit board governance is one of the toughest activities that any nonprofit leader has to master. It's not easy to do because there is a lot of gray area. In other words, the executive director has to walk a fine line of getting their board to do what it should. But at the same time, the board of directors has final responsibility and oversight — including oversight of the CEO.
I remember speaking to a nonprofit marketing professional one time. And during our conversation, he described a painful board meeting. At the time, he pitched to his board a new marketing effort for year-end fundraising. In his mind, he thought it would be easy, since board members should not get involved in the day-to-day. However, he was wrong. The presentation devolved into a detailed debate about the look of the campaign. Everything from the font type to the colors used was debated between staff and the board.
While the story is an example of a board that got deep into the weeds, other issues came up in my talk with the marketing professional. The main point of pain was one board member who thought it their role to "micro-manage" the executive team. And, if you're a nonprofit leader, you understand that this is not good for nonprofit board governance. Mastering the art of working with a board is one thing, but I want to focus on the troublemaking board member. What if you find yourself in a situation where you need to ease out a member of the board because they don’t play well with others?
Create an Emeritus Board of Directors
Nonprofit board governance depends on a good functioning group at the board and executive levels. In my experience, one of the best ways to ease out a member of the board is by creating an emeritus board.
Emeritus board members do not have any voting privileges on boards. But the intention of the emeritus status is to give honor to exceptional members. As a result, developing an emeritus board can be an excellent way to ease out people who have been part of the group since its founding. Also, it's a good way to honor great people who want to leave, or who still want the prestige of being on a board, but need to move on.
Creating an emeritus designation is not something to use for individuals who have not served with distinction. Still, it is something that can and should be considered for those members who have significantly helped the organization (even if they have been a handful to manage).
Benefits of Having Emeritus Board Members
From a nonprofit board governance perspective, there are reasons to create a small emeritus board:
- It honors the founder and helps diffuse founder’s syndrome. In other words, it can help your group ease out a founder gracefully.
- An emeritus board allows talented and passionate board of directors members to get honored and stay connected.
- If members of the board of directors are donors (hopefully the case), it encourages continued support.
- Emeritus board of directors members provide an opportunity for people to create a legacy.
Not many nonprofits (particularly small or medium-sized) have emeritus board members. However, it's something any group should consider. As a result of creating an emeritus board of directors, there can be lots of benefits. And these benefits can be aid both (former) members of the board and nonprofit groups.
Wayne Elsey is the founder and CEO of Elsey Enterprises. Among his various independent brands, he is also the founder and CEO of Funds2Orgs, a social enterprise that helps nonprofits, schools, churches, civic groups, individuals and others raise funds, while helping to support micro-enterprise (small business) opportunities in developing nations and the environment.
You can learn more about Wayne and obtain free resources, including his books on his blog, Not Your Father’s Charity.