Dear Governance Matters,
I am the president of the board of a small organization and have been on the board for a number of years. I plan to move next year and will no longer be able to serve on the board. No one else is willing to be the president. Can you make some recommendations about what I should do?
Do you know why the members of your board are not willing to step up to the Presidency? Finding the answer to that question is the first step. Is it:
- the amount of work
- reluctance to work closely with the executive director
- the organization is having difficulties
- board meetings are too long, boring, or controversial
- board members have lost sight of the mission
- board members are just not as enthusiastic as they used to be
I suggest starting with a bit of research: Design and present a questionnaire to the board ASAP. This is an opportunity to ask all sorts of questions from "Why have you stayed a member of our board?" to "What would keep you from accepting a leadership role on our board?" Board questionnaires are the quickest and most honest way to find out all sorts of information.
The questionnaire can be introduced at a board meeting, completed on-line or returned by mail. Some board members may be more comfortable if the responses can be submitted anonymously, so don't require a signature.
The results of the questionnaire will determine what you do next. Compiling, sharing and discussing the results with the whole board can be very instructive and revealing to everyone, and may provide the solution by re-invigorating the board.
An alternative is to speak to each board member individually in order to re-connect and find out their concerns.
Another question to consider: Is there a term for the leadership position? While I personally am not an advocate of "term limits," I am a supporter of "terms." If a board member knows that s/he will be president for only three years, that may help.
And, of course, this is also a great opportunity to formulate a comprehensive plan to bring people on the board who recognize the importance of participation and who will take leadership to sustain your organization. The Governance Matters website has information on recruiting new board members, and questions and case studies about evaluating board effectiveness. You might also want to consider ways to make board meetings more effective as a way to make the task of chair less onerous.
Ask us again after you have found out more information from a board questionnaire!
Governance Matters "Ask the Experts"