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Non-Profit Board Issues: The Advantages of Term Limits

I have had the pleasure of working with non-profit Boards and Executive Directors over the past several years. During Director Planning Sessions a frequent question asked is about the need for Board Member term limits. My experience with non-profit organizations and Boards leads me to recommend that both membership and leadership roles be term limited. Here is a summary of what term limits bring to the Board.

Board Member Term Limits:

• Provide a systematic way to bring new members onto the Board creating new energy and innovation
• Create a sense of urgency to recruit new, highly capable Board Members on an ongoing basis
• Assure prospective Board Members there is a time-specific length of service

Board Leadership Term Limits:

• Assure more members have an opportunity to serve in leadership positions
• Prevent one member or group of members from long-term ‘control’ of the Board
• Assure prospective Board Leaders there is a time-specific length of service in a board leadership position

Term limits, both for Board Membership and for Leadership Positions create a manageable system for organizational boards. Board term limits when combined with other necessary management systems go a long way in providing non-profit organizations with stable, long-term oversight and management.

I have observed Board’s which have had members who have remained on the Board of Directors for many years. They become a ‘fixture’ and may be seen as hindrance to new ideas and solutions for the Board and the organization. These ‘lifer members’ also create a real dilemma for Boards. The ‘lifer’ member may keep the Board from adopting new initiatives. This member may also reject new members for fear of losing their perceived power on the Board. Finally, these members can become very difficult to remove for fear of creating hard feelings which could translate into bad public relations within the community.

For non-profit organizations looking to improve overall board membership and functioning, developing a strong set of policies around board membership and board leadership term limits is a great place to begin. If you have not considered creating term limits for your board members, you may want to take time at a board meeting, or during a strategic planning session to discuss the merits of adding board term limits to your policies.

Source: bryansbizblog.com

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