Why Am I Here At This Table

on in Fundraising

Board members who show up.

God bless ‘em.

The stalwarts who take their responsibility for the mission quite seriously, no matter the mishegas (translation: craziness) around them. No matter the struggle to make quorum, the (consistently) empty seats around the table.

But sooner or later, if an organization doesn’t take steps to clean house, they’re gonna to start figuring: “Why am I the chump that keeps showing up, when everyone else is blowing this off and still gets to keep the title of board member?”

They’ve got a point.

It starts with griping: “Why aren’t more people coming to board meetings?” Then it moves to real complaining – when committee assignments, critical tasks of oversight and even roll-up-your-sleeves actions, fall to the same core 6 people.

They can see, justifiably, that they, and their few equally-responsible brethren, are taking the heat for the whole group – shouldering far more than their fair share. And the resentment begins to grow.

So much so that if one of the absentees does show up at a meeting, the stalwarts’ indignation smolders out into open sniping – just about ensuring the absentee board b2ap3_thumbnail_upward-spiral.jpgmember doesn’t come back. “Geez, it’s as unpleasant/unproductive/unpromising as I remembered it,” becomes their lasting impression.

Not a pretty picture.

This downward spiral starts when two behavior trends haven’t been addressed: i) meetings aren’t chaired to drive towards productive results; and ii) people who vote with their feet – who simply disappear rather than try to change things, aren’t paid attention to.

Compounding this problem, there are always some people whose life circumstances have changed – new baby or job, illness in the family, other conditions requiring immediate attention – who might need a little “time out” from active board duty, but who aren’t complete shirkers and will come back to active duty if they’re given a little slack.

You want to hold onto those folks – and still have enough bodies around the table to get the job done humanely (i.e. with respect for board member’s personal commitments, not overloading their plates). Otherwise you’ll get burnout of the stalwarts, slinking away of the “active but on leaves” – and be left with the absentees who barely notice that anything’s wrong (because they don’t show up to see ).

As I said, not a pretty picture. But one, if you pay attention to board member performance, and use the term renewal process to re-engage or counsel out, that can be avoided.

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