Moving from a Bored Member to a Board Member

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As a young professional 10 years ago, I was so excited to join my first board. It was one of those board positions that you just inherit when you get promoted, but you really have no clue what they are doing or why you should care. In my case, it was a city board for workforce development. My only training was a day-long session on Robert’s Rules of Orders. But, I did get to visit City Council to be appointed and received a cool pin to wear to meetings. 

Needless to say, I really had no idea what my role or responsibilities were, and I was completely disengaged at bored meetings, or should I say board meetings….no, they really were "bored" meetings for me.  

 Board members attend a recent training session hosted by the Arizona Alliance of Nonprofits.

Board members attend a recent training session hosted by the Arizona Alliance of Nonprofits.

Fast forward through my career working in associations, chambers, and nonprofit organizations, and I have definitely witnessed my share of extremely dysfunctional board meetings. Meetings where we spent 60 minutes trying to figure out the date for the next board meeting; meetings that included yelling and storming out by board members; meetings where staff compensation was hotly debated with staff in the room; meetings where everyone approved the financials but most hadn’t looked at them; and must I go on?  

I realized later that the dysfunction came from a lack of understanding of what the board’s roles and responsibilities were and how they best matched the particular lifecycle stage of the organization. It wasn’t until I joined a well-run nonprofit board that I realized it didn’t have to be that way. On that board, I was vetted, educated, and oriented to my role as a board member. The board also held each other accountable in our roles of stewarding the mission of the organization.  

At the Alliance, we take seriously the value of making sure board members are informed before joining a nonprofit board through our Business on Board and Community on Board programs.  In this training, we go over the role of nonprofits in our community, as well as the fiduciary, legal and fundraising roles of board members. We also talk about how different types of board members are needed as a nonprofit navigates through the startup, early growth, late growth, maturity, and potential turnaround stages of their lifecycle.  

I invite you to join us for one of our upcoming sessions in February. These are perfect both for those of you that have not yet served on a nonprofit board or for existing board members that would benefit from a refresher or to learn what has changed related to their board roles and responsibilities. You can click each of the sessions below for more details and to register.

I encourage you to thoughtfully consider your current or future role as a board member of a nonprofit organization. It is truly a critical piece of the success of the work the nonprofit is doing in our communities. It is an opportunity for an incredible partnership, working with the Executive Director and their team, to make an impact. And, remember, we are here to help you along the way.  Be sure to visit our website and click on “Connect with the Sector” to learn more.

Recovering Bored Member,

Kristen Merrifield, CAE, CNAP
Chief Executive Officer
Alliance of Arizona Nonprofits