What to Do About Complacent Board Members

Most nonprofit leaders at some point are faced with the challenge of board members that complacent and not living up to their potential.  The symptoms of complacency may include board members not showing up for meetings, members who are not completing their assignments and/or not participating in boardroom discussions.

It can difficult for the leadership to call people out on these types of behaviors and well-meaning leaders will often ignore inappropriate behaviors in an effort not to embarrass anyone.  But, even a few complacent board members can frustrate and demoralize your active board members and create resentment between members.

Tips for engaging your complacent board members:

  •  Set up a coffee date to check in with them to see if they are experiencing a personal or work related issue that may be interfering with their board work.   If they need a break for personal reasons suggest they consider taking a sabbatical from the board.
  • Check in to with them after the meetings to make sure they feel comfortable participating in the boardroom discussions. Some members may not be as comfortable speaking up at the board table – encourage them and remind them how much you value their input.
  •  Build on the member’s skills and interest – ask them to support or lead specific projects that match their skills and interests.
  • Create time for board members to socialize together before or after board meetings or at outside events – this builds relationships. As they get to know one another better often people become more motivated to actively participate in the work of the board if it feels more like a group of friends.
  • If someone is saying they are too busy or feeling burned out – encourage them to resign and take a break.  Suggest when they are ready to come back and you will explore with them the many ways they can support your organization.