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Mission Matters Insights

When is the Right Time to Leave Your NFP Board Position?

July 23, 2014

What factors are most important to your Board position and guidance on determining if it’s still the right fit.

There are plenty of articles written and many reasons why you should consider joining a nonprofit board, yet many help you to identify the warning signs of when it might be the best time for you to surrender your board position and volunteer your time elsewhere. This blog will help you to identify some situations which, if they exist, should cause you to consider whether remaining on a board is the right decision for you.

Organizations evolve over time and the organization you joined as a Board member years ago may be very different today. Occasionally you should take a step back and evaluate whether the organization’s values and activities are still consistent with your personal values. If they are not, you may want to either try to move the organization back to where it once was, or consider parting ways.

It is absolutely appropriate to vote with your conscience on all Board votes. However, after the vote, all Board members must support the majority decision and proceed along the selected path with a united front. If you are unable to support the organization when a board action is taken contrary to your vote, you should consider resigning. Supporting the majority decision is one of the basic and most important fundamentals of holding a Board position. If that is not possible for you, you may need to look into alternative organizations.

If you (and other board members) are not informed about the organization’s current activities and its mission-oriented results or the performance of the chief executive, this is an organization which is likely no longer being run by the board. If, after making an effort to change the situation or make right of an issue, you should consider resigning from the Board. Continuing to participate in an ineffective board only reinforces the ineffective behavior.

Another example of an ineffective board is one that does not receive and review the organization’s financials on a regular basis. Financial resources are what allow the organization to address its programmatic mission. Board oversight of the financial picture is critical. Likewise if you don’t spend a significant amount of time thinking about whether the organization is effective at advancing its mission and how the organization could be more effective at advancing its mission, you (and the rest of the board) are probably becoming more and more disconnected from the organization.

Among the more obvious reasons for leaving a board position is that you recognize that you’re serving more for personal benefit than for the public benefit. Remember, your position on a not-for-profit board is as a representative of the public – the public that has granted tax-exempt status to this organization because that public values the organization’s tax-exempt mission and has entrusted the board members with keeping the organization focused on that mission. Also, if you have a material financial interest in a transaction with the organization that would be damaging or embarrassing if known by the public, it is time to sever your ties with the organization.

In more than one instance above, we mentioned working to change the board’s activities back to what they should be. In doing this, however, if you find yourself unable to work collaboratively with the other board members in a productive manner, it probably does not make much sense for you to continue your efforts. It certainly is not easy to resign from an organization which you joined and worked so hard and for so long to improve. However, sometimes, needed change will only come about when you emphasize your position or feelings and take action to correct them.

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