If you’re like most people, you consider it an honor to be asked to join the board of directors for a nonprofit organization that you care deeply about. Every candidate who gets asked to serve on a nonprofit board of directors doesn’t necessarily possess the necessary skills or qualifications to fulfill their duties. However, joining a board of directors can be an excellent training ground for a person who has the potential to develop the required skills and qualifications and gain experience at the same time.
Unfortunately, nonprofit boards sometimes appoint new directors to their boards without carefully considering their decisions or vetting their candidates. There are many reasons that nonprofit board directors accept a board position and then resign before their term is over. When resigning from the board, it’s important to leave in the appropriate way.
Check Yourself for the Reasons You Accepted a Board Position
Accepting a board director position is an honor that comes with many duties and responsibilities. For some people, the board didn’t make those duties and responsibilities clear from the beginning and directors quickly learn that there’s more to it than they initially thought. This situation leaves new directors feeling ill-equipped to perform their duties.
Nevertheless, it’s important to revisit the reason you accepted the position in the first place. The organization’s mission statement outlines the organization’s purpose. This statement likely impacted you personally and motivated you to accept the position. Before following through with a resignation, try to think about what the organization means to you and others you care about and whether your continued involvement makes a big enough difference to overcome any challenges.
Every board needs the right fuel to run efficiently. It’s possible that you were never right for a leadership position to begin with and it may be better for you and the organization to shift to other meaningful ways of being involved.
It’s important to examine your motives for resigning before following through with a formal resignation. This is the best time to get to the heart of the issue and to take heed of any learning opportunities. Resigning from a nonprofit board should ultimately be a good decision for you and the board.
Reasons That Prompt a Nonprofit Director Resignation
From the start, board directors should serve their duties with clear intentions and be willing to put in the necessary time to fulfill their duties. Nonprofit directors need to find the balance between serving faithfully and being willing to ask probing questions that risk causing some contention among the other board members. Serious personal issues or illness can also create a situation that causes lack of noticeable participation for a board member. Several valid reasons can bring about a director resignation.
After committing some time to serving on the board, it may become apparent that the service benefits the individual director more than the organization. Board directors who have a material financial interest in the organization need to recognize that their motives are misdirected. This type of situation could cause mistrust with members of the organization and the public. These are valid reasons for stepping down from a board.
Loss of Commitment to the Mission
While an organization may hold deep, personal meaning for a director, sometimes the organization’s values or activities don’t line up well with a director’s personal values. Moral or ethical concerns are also good reasons for board directors to leave a board.
Feeling That One’s Participation Is Ineffective
Board directors want assurance that their contribution to the board has value. If they’re feeling that their fellow board directors don’t value their input and perspective and they can’t get timely information about financials and activities, it might be a good time to step down.
While it’s important for board directors to ask hard questions, the board must maintain trusting and respectful relationships. Board directors who continually disagree with the rest of the board and constantly create tension may want to reconsider whether their presence is a good fit. Board members who point out non-compliance with legal issues may step down if the rest of the board isn’t willing to correct those issues.
Inability to Fulfill Duties
Board directors who miss meetings, fail to participate and lack follow-through do their boards a disservice. Board directors of nonprofit organizations should be willing to give of their finances and their time when working toward the organization’s mission and vision.
Board directors who fail to step down for these or other reasons may hold back nonprofits from advancing their missions and fulfilling the organization’s reason for existing.
How to Resign From a Volunteer Board
Before following through with resigning from a nonprofit board, take a look at when your normal term ends. It may be possible to work things out and at least fulfill your commitment to serve for one full term. If you’re having issues with one or more directors, try to clear the air and resolve issues first.
If you’re dealing with a health or serious personal issue, you may not have a choice but to resign right away. If the resignation is for some other reason, choose your timing wisely. If the organization is going through tough times or if too many directors are leaving at once, it may be best to hang on a little longer for the good of the organization and its benefactors.
When you’ve made the final decision to resign, read the organization’s bylaws regarding the acceptable way for board directors to resign and follow the guidance to the best of your ability. Taking this step will go a long way with fellow board directors, even when you’re leaving under problematic circumstances.
It’s usually best to inform the board chair and president verbally first. Then tell the rest of the board in person. Be sure to apologize if you haven’t been able to fulfill your duties to the best of your ability. Follow up your verbal resignation with a formal resignation letter, addressed to the board president. Be truthful and succinct, stating only the facts, such as this example.
Staying Connected After Board Service
When board service ends, many members find it rewarding to serve the organization in other ways. If there was a fundraiser or other activity that you personally enjoyed, the board may appreciate you continuing to serve on a volunteer basis. As a way of continuing to support the organization, you also might consider donating to the cause and encouraging others in your personal and professional networks to do the same.