This week we will continue to explore the dynamics of productive and successful board meetings.
A situation that plagues nonprofit boards from time to time is absenteeism. This is a troublesome problem that needs the CEO’s attention because if not addressed it could disrupt the business of governing the agency. The business of the agency requires a majority vote. If board members are constantly and consistently absent, you can see how this would cause quite a problem.
In order to be a contributing board member, it is important that you come to meetings prepared, but it is equally important that you also attend as many board meetings as humanly possible. The ideal situation is to not miss a single meeting. However; in a perfect world, business and life obligations make this nearly impossible, and that is definitely understandable! That is why most agency by-laws address absenteeism and allow for a certain number of excused absences. But; what do you do when a board member consistently exceeds the allowable number of excused absences?
Well, the first thing to do is determine whether you are dealing with a personal dilemma or whether a change in the meeting structure or logistics can help. The latter is difficult because a change in structure or meeting logistics may cause others to develop a problem with absenteeism too. Remember that every board member has value and it would be counterproductive to lump all excessively absent board members into the same proverbial basket. So; by addressing the origin of each individual situation, you can try to bring change. This is often best done by the Chair of the board.
Here are some ideas for eliminating absenteeism at your board meetings:
1. Address absenteeism during the new board member orientation and explain that attendance is obligatory
2. Spend board meeting time on issues that matter!
3. Give board members roles that are important
4. Listen to board members when obstacles for attendance appear
5. Have a formal policy outlining removal if absenteeism becomes a problem
Each board member has value and as the CEO of the agency it is your responsibility to see that you are maximizing each board member’s talents. If a board member is absent from more than three meetings it is important to listen to your board member’s reasons for missing those meetings and to help that board member remove obstacles that keep them from attending. Please share with me the unique ways that you have dealt with excessive board absenteeism?