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When To Leave One Board and Join Another

Having trained and placed many business executives on nonprofit boards for over 15 years, I’ve also helped board members decide when it’s time to move on from one board to the next. What leads people to move off of one board and move onto a new one?

Having trained and placed many business executives on nonprofit boards for over 15 years, I’ve also helped board members decide when it’s time to move on from one board to the next. What leads people to move off of one board and move onto a new one?

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  1. Ability to provide greater value: I find that most people are interested, and yes, even potentially passionate, about a number of issues. The major driving force in their interest in serving on one board over another is the opportunity to do something useful to help advance the mission. If you are just attending meetings and not able to make much of a difference, then explore with the board chair and the CEO of the organization how you might be more useful, whether that’s in fundraising, board-building, financial investments, assisting with the audit committee, strategic planning, or some other way. If you and the board and organization’s leadership don’t find a good way for you to do something meaningful, then it’s time to move on.
  2. Learning about an issue of importance: Sometimes, people decide after several years on a board that they want to stretch themselves to learn about a new issue of importance, and new board experiences can provide such opportunities. I know a terrific board member who rotates boards every six years in order to develop her knowledge of regional and global issues; during her six years at each organization, she is a valued board member, serving in leadership positions–giving, fundraising, and board-building.
  3. Being appreciated: Board members will gravitate to nonprofits where they and their friends, clients, and bosses will be appropriately thanked and recognized for their gifts of time and money. If you’re not appreciated, move on.

Serving on a board is an opportunity to learn and grow while you are helping to advance a mission you truly believe in and thus serving the community. While it’s meaningful and fulfilling, and you are adding value, keep going. Otherwise, there are plenty of boards that need people who are generous with their business talents and their funds.

About the author

Korngold provides strategy consulting to global corporations on sustainability, facilitating corporate-nonprofit partnerships, and training and placing hundreds of business executives on NGO/nonprofit boards for 20+ years. She provides strategy and board governance consulting to NGO/nonprofit boards, foundations, and educational and healthcare institutions.

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