I've served on a few non-profit boards over the years, and it has been my great privilege to work with many hard-working individuals who have worked (for no pay) to make the organizations they care about stronger, and more resilient. Most of the organizations I have been associated with are still around today, and that is in no small measure due to the diligence and hard work of the board members, staffs and volunteers of these organizations.
But every organization faces a sort of rot within its core that is rarely, if ever, talked about, and that is the board member who joins merely to enhance their own resume. This individual may give a great interview, full of enthusiasm and love for what the organization does and hopes to accomplish in the future, and may even show up for the first few meetings.
But after that? Well, AWOL may be the kindest way to describe their performance. They may offer up all sorts of excuses - they are busy with other organizations (you gotta wonder how much work they actually do for them?) but the end result is the same - they're never there when you need them.
And yet, their "participation" with your non-profit is now proudly claimed on their resumes as they attempt to move their career ever onward and upward.
As a board member involved in the hiring process, I am familiar with checking references on a resume before you hire someone for a paid position. It works out pretty well.
Not sure if any of the boards I was ever involved with ever called anyone's references to ask if anyone would make a good board member.
Fortunately, most boards have processes in place to remove such board members - but it usually involves their missing several meetings in a row. Then they have to go through the process of getting someone else to fill the seat.
Fayetteville Open Channel - the most extreme case
In the last days of Fayetteville Open Channel, when meetings would last several three or four hours because no one knew how to cut through the crap and be concise, one fellow joined the board and just sort of sat silently through all of the meetings.
We later learned he was up for sentencing in a criminal trial, and that his attorney thought that it would be a good idea if he was on a non-profit board, to show his "community involvement."
Not sure it helped.
Quote of the Day
Well, I have found life an enjoyable, enchanting, active, and sometimes a terrifying experience, and I've enjoyed it completely. A lament in one ear, maybe, but always a song in the other. And to me life is simply an invitation to live. - Sean O'Casey