HELP! Our board member isn’t showing up?

Strategies to help deal with board dysfunction.

Michigan State University Extension has an “Ask an Expert” function that helps residents ask relevant questions to experts in many fields. One recent question was directed to me asking about a board member who never participates in meetings or board functions because I often answer questions about Parliamentary Procedure. The writer asked “we have a member on our board who rarely comes to meetings. I’m not sure why they are even involved, so what can we do? Whose responsibility is it to handle this? The board members or the entire membership.”

Roberts Rules of Order Newly Revised 11th ed p.591 indicates “The imposition of a definite penalty for a particular action prohibits the increase or diminution of the penalty. If the bylaws state that a member shall be dropped from membership on a board if he misses three consecutive regular meetings of the board, he cannot be retained by vote of the board, nor can more severe penalties be imposed, such as a fine in addition. If, for example, it is desired to allow the board to diminish or waive the penalty, or increase it, the bylaw must not make it definite or must specifically provide for diminution, waiver, or enlargement.” In other words, the first place to consult is within the bylaws themselves. Something along the lines of “a vacancy shall occur in any office in the event that the person holding that office resigns, ceases to remain an active member, or if the officer misses ___ (___) consecutive regular meetings of the board in any fiscal year, unless such absences shall be excused by the Board and the reasons, therefore, entered into the minutes of the Board. Vacancies among the directorships shall be filled by the Board for the balance of the year until the next Annual Meeting, at which time an election shall be held” may be found under vacancy or officers.

The reasons why someone has disengaged from participation can be as complex as the official way to remove them from office. Blue avocado, a magazine of American nonprofits, has published an article titled “What to Do with Board Members Who Don’t Do Anything.” They respond by saying that every board member shares in the responsibility to involve each board member in contributing to the well-being of the board and the organization. They also highlight short and longer term strategies to engage members.

MSU Extension educators can provide your organization with assistance in learning more about Leadership. The Government and Public Policy team also offers training for elected and appointed officials for improved effectiveness in several areas, including various public policy issues and effects of government programs, regulation, incentives, strategies and more. By working together with local elected and appointed officials, and interested citizens, MSU Extension is able to provide education on critical local and state issues. To contact an expert in your area, visit MSU Extension’s expert search system or call 888-MSUE4MI (888-678-3464). 

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