A recent survey on boards by a community bank trade group highlights issues pertinent to not just banks but also to nonprofit organizations.
While many board members are “baby boomers” and getting older many boards have avoided the issues of term limits. This is a touchy subject as many are “founders” and feel a proprietary interest in the group. On the flip side without limits directors can become stagnant or cliquish and can stunt the success of the organization. In some cases, the long-term directors may prevent a younger and more diverse crop of leaders from joining the board.
Advantages to setting term limits include: the ability to add directors with specific skills, avoids stagnation, group-think, boredom and loss of commitment, avoids the potential for unhealthy insider attitudes, allows for a respectful and efficient way to remove ineffective directors, and most importantly brings in new ideas, perspectives and contacts.
There are some disadvantages to term limits; potential loss of expertise, loss of organizational memory, the time spent required to recruit and educate new directors, a loss in board cohesiveness and possible donation losses.
It is important for the current board leadership to step back and view what is right for them. While new blood and fresh ideas are vital to any organization so to are the loyalties and knowledge of existing members.
A way to retain these valuable people would be to set up an “Honorary Board” informing them of current activities, soliciting their input, and giving them the recognition, they so deserve.
No matter the path you choose about this issue not making one is a decision in itself.
Author: Dave Blamkenhorn, Executive Coaches of Orange County, www.ECofOC,org