why board members quit

Why Board Members Quit, A Perspective from a Former Board Member

I am following up on the article that was published here in March 2019 about Managing Your Board’s Expectations and Your Staff’s Workload During Strategic Planning. I will be writing from experience as to why I have left a few boards because the demand on my time was interfering with my professional and personal life.

I have on several occasions been brought on to small non-profit organizations because I have a skill set that many board members do not have; web building and internet marketing expertise. I am always given a committee chair position to manage both technical and communications committees. At times sharing responsibilities with another board member who volunteered for the committee but may have lacked the same experience or knowledge. I was always honored to be recognized for my capabilities and devoted a lot of volunteer hours and resources to help to rebuild, relaunch and streamline these organization’s workflows and processes.

In all cases, the organizations that brought me in were operating with antiquated processes, workflows and communicated to their members via mailing out paper newsletters that were created in word, using stamps and the US Postal Service, managing membership renewals by US mail and check acceptance sent in by US mail, websites built with old platforms and no real marketing plan to increase membership or promote themselves. These organizations found it hard to move into next level technology because board members who had been part of the organization never thought to improve or did not know of any improvements to facilitate efficiency.

And in all cases, I was able to provide state of the art websites that included membership database, the ability for new members to register and pay online, current members to renew their membership online using a third party payment gateway, set up digital newsletters that can be sent via the website or use a email service such as Vertical Response, fund raising, event and ticket sales, social media set up and website integration. All of these functions added to their new sites to help alleviate paperwork but better manage membership and marketing. In one case, and association asked for a searchable directory of their members for consumers to find a member location near them using a map. Functions that provide efficiency not only to the organization but to the members.

And one would think by streamlining and improving workflow processes that my time volunteering for these organizations would be significantly reduced. This was not the case as my time attending meetings in addition to my time working behind the scenes was becoming a chore. Most board members will be mostly engaged during meeting time and not necessarily during any other time except for organization events, meetings or planning sessions. But I was expected to volunteer additional time to manage, update and monitor websites, send out emails and communications, update social media as well as attend meetings and planning sessions.  In some cases I was getting requests and content sent from various board members at all times via text and email. I was also expected to to get it done “asap”. I was inundated and sometimes not able to complete my own work that I get paid to do.  Another factor that affected my desire to volunteer was “unsolicited” advice or comments about the website or newsletter along with some requests to do what I considered to be unrealistic. What really irked me was certain board members would receive information from another website builder or “perceived”  internet expert they knew and pass it along to me. It wasn’t so much about the message as was about the comments that appeared to be questioning or challenging the volunteer work that I donated to build and manage their site. It is hard not to take this personally. I can honestly say I was demotivated very quickly. My “contribution” to build, manage, and launch these organization websites amounted to well over $3500 per site. The organizations only paid for their hosting account. These are small organizations with small budgets.

And believe it or not all of the organizations were guilty of this. I literally had to confront the boards at meetings and explain that the demands on my time were above and beyond normal and that it was affecting  my business and my personal time. I also explained that some of the requests for website functionality was beyond scope or there would a considerable investment to purchase or build to match the request.

Although I would provide a “content” schedule, the demands would lighten up for a short time, then resume to a point where I just simply resigned peacefully leaving the organizations having to replace my position.

Fast track to present day, one of those organizations recently reached out to me after they realized that the services and skills I brought to the organization really should not be left to just to anybody and they are now offering to hire me( that is pay me)  to manage the day to day maintenance and monitoring of the site I built for them. They certainly needed my help because the previous web admin that took my place was fired. He apparently never updated the word press plugins or versions for an entire year until the site failed and recently came down. He also never kept back ups. Luckily for them, I had one and was able to restore their website and was paid for my time. They were very desperate for professional website help.

The point of my story is if your organization shopped around for specific board members with particular skills that you need and they are strictly volunteer, please be mindful of their devotion of time and the worth of their skills that they contribute. Be mindful of the value as well as the savings that these board members bring to your organization. If this board member starts to express concern or is showing signs of lack of motivation, it’s time to consider whether it is in your best interest to reduce the board members responsibility and not burn them out due to overwork and under appreciation or outsource to another professional and pay them for the work. It might be possible to utilize the board member to oversee the hired professional as a responsibility as well as lessen the board member’s time especially when your organization needs professional services. It would be great to stack the board with an accountant, social media marketer, public relations professional, and a web master but depending on how large your organization you would still need to outsource.