Moving from a Bored Member to a Board Member

by Kristen Merrifield

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 the 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.

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 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.

Kristen Merrifield, CAE

Chief Executive Officer
Alliance of Arizona Nonprofits

Speak Your Mind

In Business Dailies

Sign up for a complimentary year of In Business Dailies with a bonus Digital Subscription of In Business Magazine delivered to your inbox each month!

  • Get the day’s Top Stories
  • Relevant In-depth Articles
  • Daily Offers
  • Coming Events