How active is your board? Do you have any directors you have to carry from time to time? What should you do about absentee directors?

We have a terrific board serving our nonprofit. It is comprised of individuals who are emotionally, financially, and actively invested in our organization. We have a good mix of long-serving directors who help us stay true to our mission while facing today’s challenges and newer directors who actively serve on committees demonstrating a “here to serve” attitude. Their commitment is evident and contagious and serves as a great example to our employees, volunteers, and donors.

We have resisted inviting large donors onto the board just because they were large donors. Instead, we seek individuals who have demonstrated a heart for our clients and the organization. We also will ask inactive directors to step back and reassess their availability once it becomes clear they are unable to make the necessary commitment to the organization. Inactive, or part time, directors create a tremendous burden for the other directors and can make achieving a majority at board meetings problematic.

One of our directors started have problems making our board meetings and committee meetings, including a committee he chaired. After extending to him a significant grace period, I spoke with him about his personal situation and how it was impacting our clients and us. He decided to step down and resign. I invited him to keep in touch as his schedule allowed and that he still could play an important role with us once things settled down for him.

His resignation was sadly but correctly accepted by the board. We now had a spot for new blood, new ideas, and new energy.

Shortly thereafter, another director saw her business life change upon accepting a significant promotion. Rather than put us through another shortage of directors, she voluntarily stepped down and cleared the path for a replacement. She had heard us discuss how the previous director’s inconsistent participation had hurt us and took the initiative to avoid that happening again.

Sometimes a little direct conversation, even an unpleasant one,  can pay off in ways not anticipated.