How to Fight Board Member Absenteeism

empty roomA nonprofit board should be the guiding light for the organization. However, this can be difficult to accomplish when members aren’t physically or mentally present at meetings.  

Below, we outline four common causes of board member absenteeism and steps your nonprofit can take to overcome them.

1. Expectations Are Not Clearly Defined

Boards run into trouble when members’ initial expectations don’t align with expected responsibilities and requirements. Make sure the opportunity is a good fit for both the potential member and the board: 

  • Be upfront about time commitments, roles and responsibilities—including the number, duration and meeting times of board and committee meetings.
  • Document expectations in a centralized place for easy reference.
  • Keep track of attendance, and set a precedent of enforced expectations.
  • Establish processes that encourage ongoing feedback.

For additional pointers and details, read our blog post, How to Properly Set Board Member Expectations.

2. Board Members’ Talents Are Underutilized

Board member absenteeism often starts to materialize once members realize that their skills and talents are not valued or utilized.

Each board member has something unique to bring to the table. These talents should be unearthed during the nomination processes via a skill assessment, so that skills and specialties can be put to use at the onset of the relationship. Conduct one-on-one meetings, small group discussions or administered self-assessments to gain an  understanding of educational backgrounds, areas of interest and specific talents..

With this knowledge on hand, you can better assign board members to specific projects and board meeting roles. You’ll also know who to look to for advice and guidance when meeting discussions arise in specific topic areas.

See here for more information on reversing the effects of unplugged talent.

3. Board Meetings Lack Focus and Meaning

Never meet just to meet. A board meeting without a clear and focused agenda can be viewed as a waste of time by members, and may discourage them from keeping perfect attendance. Avoid this by:

  • Having an agenda that is shared with members prior to meeting.
  • Keeping meetings balanced with a healthy mix of presentations and group discussions.
  • Asking smart questions geared toward metrics.
  • Staying diligent with meeting start and end times.
  • Practicing transparency by sharing meeting minutes.

Read our recent blog post, 5 Tips to Make Board Meetings Meaningful, for a more thorough explanation of how to execute the above suggestions.

4. Board Members Forget to Attend

It may sound silly, but part of the reason board members may not show up to meetings is simply because they forget the day and time. Make it a habit to remind members of each meeting. Consider sending two emails—one a week before the meeting and one the day before.

Another option is to leverage board management technology, which allows you to automate board member meeting and project reminders.

How does your board’s practices compare to others? Learn more about the current state of board management: Download the 2014 Board Engagement Report.

Image Source: KT King via Flickr