There is no way to say it nice.
Sometimes you have to break up with a bad board member.
Here are 3 types of board members that you need to give the "Dear John" letter to...
1. The No-Show Board Member.
Sadly, too many nonprofit boards are poisoned with "No Show" board members. This is a person who couldn't politely say "no thank-you" when they were asked to join the board. They feigned interest to appease the asker without ever intending on actually showing up and participating.
Sometimes the "No-Show" board member wants the "board member" title to beef up their resume but when they come to the meetings, they offer nothing to help propel the organization forward. They may be physical present at the meeting but get are entirely absent in contribution. These types of "No-Show" board members really get my blood boiling.
What will happen if you don't break up with No-Show Board Members?
If you do not call it quits with "No-Show" board members, you are giving everyone else on the board permission to treat the mission like it has no value. You will dishearten the rest of the team and stunt the growth of the organization. So, cut the dead wood loose, friend. Tell those "No-Show" board members to not bother showing up at all.
2. The Bossy Britches Board Member.
This is a board member who basically wants to be the CEO. They try to hijack every board meeting and they are known for being a "micro manager". They talk over the executive director, they intimidate the other members and they are constantly overstepping boundaries. Because of their bulldog nature, other board members are afraid to speak up and say, "Stop being so bossy! You aren't the leader here!" The "Bossy Britches" board members slowly suffocate the passion right out the heart the mission because everything becomes about them and what they want to do. The only thing I can think to say when I think of a "Bossy Britches" board member is: Ew.
What will happen if you do not break up with the Bossy Britches board member?
Well, one thing is for sure: nothing will ever get done. If you don't tell "Bossy Britches" that it's time for them to go find their own board to lead, you will be giving power to their ability to distract, confuse, and paralyze the board. Furthermore, if a "Bossy Britches" board member is allowed to stick around, you may find that they might stick around just long enough to frustrate your Executive Director right into resignation. You DO NOT want that. Tell "Bossy Britches" that they don't have to go home, but they can't stay here.
3. The Hot Mess Board Member.
This is a board member who does not have his/her business or personal life in order. This is a person who is has been involved or is accused of being involved in a scandal or unethical practices. Everyone knows that when you are associated with a person who has a bad reputation you will gain a bad reputation too. I hate to say it because I know it hurts but I love you enough to tell you what is true: Board members with poor character and shady dealings are not good for your mission.
What will happen if you do not break up with the Hot Mess Board Member?
If you don't cut ties with a board member who has a tainted reputation, you run the risk of tainting your organization's reputation as well. It sounds harsh, but we all know a tragic story of a nonprofit organization who got pulled down by a badly behaving board member. Your mission is too good to not have good people supporting it. Get picky and don't be afraid to hold your board members to a standard. Do not look away or turn a deaf hear when you hear rumors that a board member has been known to sexual harass colleagues or has been financially unethical. Kindly investigate the situation and if you discover that there are issues, politely dismiss this board member.
Listen, friend, you got to break up with bad board members.
Do it directly, quickly, and kindly.
I get it. You have a lot of history with them and you feel bad that things have turned out the way they have but listen to me:
It's better to end the relationship with a bad board member than to put the organization in jeopardy.
I'm on your side,