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VolunteerToday.com ~~ The Electronic Gazette for Volunteerism


They are volunteers, too!
Look here for infomation and the latest techniques to develop your board or committee. The purpose is to help those who work or serve on nonprofit boards of directors or committees.

~ July 2004 ~ Topic

Arrows Image Difficult Board Members Arrows Image
The Non-Participant

Board members who don't participate can be very difficult. They don't speak up; they don't volunteer to do specific jobs; they don't communicate ideas or concerns to the board chair or executive director.

The chair wonders do they not get it: are they bored, are they intimidated or are they critical of what's going on and complaining to friends and relatives outside the organization?

If your board has someone (or more than one) like this, ask yourself the following questions before you decide the silent board member(s) shouldn't be asked to serve again:
  1. Did we have an adequate board orientation? Does this person really know what the job of a board member is?
  2. Do we ask non-participants for an opinion occasionally to make a deliberate attempt at inclusion?
  3. Do we favor opinionated board members and give them too much time to talk so that they scare off the non-participant?
  4. Is there an adversarial climate rather than a "problem solving" attitude at the board meeting that is competitive rather than mission focused?
  5. Do we offer opportunities, so that board members can socialize?
  6. Have we conducted a written board assessment to solicit board members' opinions on the operation of the board?

Perhaps the non-participant really is "at sea;" is in awe of the other board members who seem so well informed; or is fearful of speaking before a group. Try to draw the non-participant out and compliment good ideas he/she has. Remember that people who study human behavior say the two things people fear most are airplane flights and public speaking!

I'm reminded of something I heard recently: it seems that when people are in the recovery room after surgery, the first thing they ask is not, "how am I; was the operation a success?," but rather, "did I say anything stupid while I was under the anesthetic?" This demonstrates that most of us worry most about making a fool of ourselves. Board chairs must reassure everyone that all opinions are valued and welcomed (as long as a board member doesn't monopolize the meeting.)

Other good sources for information on boards and committees:

Jeanne Bradner can be reached at Jeannebrad@aol.com

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See our online bookstore for Jeanne Bradner's book on boards: The Board Member’s Guide: A Beneficial Bestiary and Leading Volunteers for Results: Building Communities Today. Also check out Risk Management: Stragegies for Managing Volunteer Programs by Sarah Henson & Bruce Larson .
Board Member's Guide ImageLeading Volunteers Book Image Risk Management Book Image

Jeanne H. Bradner
Jeanne H. Bradner is an author, consultant, trainer and speaker on volunteerism, board development and leadership. She is the author of three publications, The Board Member's Guide, A Beneficial Bestiary and Leading Volunteers for Results: Building Communities Today. She served as director of the Illinois Governor's Office of Voluntary Action, Midwest Regional Director of ACTION, and Executive Director of the Illinois Commission on Community Service. She is the volunteer program specialist for Illinois' Harper College Volunteer Management curriculum.

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