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  • Kathy Fitzgerald

When you have a disengaged board member

What causes a board member to show up at meetings but is inattentive, non responsive or checking their mobile phones usually have other things occupying their minds?

Is the phone more important than the task at hand?

How to avoid this type of behaviour is to ask people to join the board for the right reasons.


If you have a recruitment policy you might want to include some of these pointers to avoid having a disengaged member on your board:


1) Avoid asking people to join the board as a reward. This person may have given several years of volunteer support or manages a fundraiser to support your organization. You can reward this person for their special contribution in the form of a recognition event in their honour, present a token of appreciation at your Gala or you can highlight their personal story in your #newsletter. There are many ways to thank someone, but don’t bring them to the board just to say thanks!


2) Avoid asking a friend or colleague because you want to help them make #business connections. I’m not saying you shouldn’t help your friend to network, but there are other avenues where you can help them to meet your board members.


3) Avoid asking a friend to join the board because you want to have his or her additional support. This person may be engaged for the short term but will soon lose interest if he or she felt pursuaded to join the board as a token of friendship to you.


4) Avoid recruiting someone to the board who wants to build his or her resume. The level of commitment and contribution will be lacking and you’ll have to deal with someone who gives less than you might like to expect.


Inviting your friends


At one organization I worked at, the Vice Chair invited a good friend of his to join the board. The Vice Chair probably had good intentions and thought his friend could contribute to the board, but it became obvious at board meetings that we had a disengaged member.


At meetings he was more focused on his mobile phone keeping up with his personal and business matters and contributed very little to the board matters at hand.


In this case, this member readily admitted that he felt bad that he hadn’t contributed as much as he was able.


When it came time to evaluate the board members, this particular member chose to leave the board when his term had expired. He was able to spend more time focusing on what was more important to him at the time.




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