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They are volunteers, too!
Look here for information 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.

~ January - February 2008~

Preventing Board Burnout

Visititing with an assistant executive director about volunteering inher nonprofit organization produced this conversation.

AED said “We really need more help to do the work of the organization.  The board members are just not helping as much as they used to.”

VT editor said “So, the board does its board work of governance and then they also help with all the programs the organization delivers.  Is that right?”

AED said.  “Yes, and it is getting harder and harder to find volunteers.”

We will not report what the editor of Volunteer Today thought.  Leave that she was appropriately sympathetic.  However, she raised the issue of the role of the governing board versus the role of the direct service or program volunteer who carries out or supports activities. 

It is true that some people are able to trade many hats while serving in a nonprofit—board member, committee leader, committee member, and giver of direct service--, but not with great ease.  The direct service role collides with the governance role at board meetings.  “We can’t cut that program.  I don’t care what the budget says, it is too important to those people.  I know.  I am with them every Thursday.”

Sometimes the role of the board member is on a collision course with the feelings generated by serving the programs of the organization.   Boards know that programs need to be self-sustaining or pared back at times of fiscal crisis. . .never an easy decision for a board.  And extremely painful for direct service volunteers.

Some boards go so far as establishing policies about serving on the board and serving in a direct service position simultaneously.  This is a hard choice for many eligible for the board, as he/she frequently started with a direct service position, gradually assuming more and more responsibility.  So, how can you help the board member be clear which hat he/she is wearing when serving on the Board.

Here is a reminder of roles of the board of directors:

  • Planning
  • Evaluating
  • Promotion of the organization and its programs
  • Setting policy for all aspects of operation in the following areas:
  • Legal and corporate issue
  • Program services
  • Personnel
  • Financial Management
  • Public and Community Relations

A board of directors with training is less apt to micromanage than one where it is assumed they already know what role to play.  Older board members should be training new board members when there is a temptation to meddle in staff roles or that of direct service volunteers.


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