It is neither good nor advisable to serve on a board forever. While you may be deeply committed to the organization or institution you serve, you need to rotate off the board at the appropriate time. At least for a little while. Term limits help a board sustain a freshness and new perspective that can be lacking when too many board members have served more than four to five years. It can be hard for an organization to change when its leadership is static and lacking in “new blood.” With too many people who have been on the board a long time new board members can also feel frustrated when their ideas are not accepted, or the board seems “stuck in its ways.”
Rotating off the board can be good for the organization and good for you. Take a breather. Spend more time with your family. Take a class. Join the gym. Or volunteer for another board and learn how another organization or institution approaches similar or different issues.
But, before you leave, you need to replace yourself. We know – you’re irreplaceable. Given that truth, come as close as you can. Or – here’s a heresy – find someone to serve who could be an even more committed and engaged board member than you have been.
As a board member you know the organization’s strengths and challenges, and the skill sets, relationships, and access to funding represented within the board. You can help identify someone with a different skill set, perspective or constituency that will add value to the board. Think about who you know – personally or professionally – who is committed to the values and mission of the organization. Take the time to introduce them to other board members in a social setting. Invite them to meet the CEO or executive director, and to witness the organization in action. Share with your friend or colleague why you serve on the board, and ask him or her to consider serving as well.
As a committed board member you are almost morally committed to ensure the organization can move forward with strong board leadership. Do not leave it to the CEO or board chair to replace you. Be proactive and identify potential new board members who can help take the organization to the next level of its growth. Express your commitment by identifying new leadership. While ultimately it is the responsibility of the development committee to recommend new board members to the full board for consideration, you can ensure a strong pool of potential candidates. You’ve been effective – now bring someone else in to help build on your success.
Let us know what you think!