Wednesday, July 8, 2020

LESSON 27 – Address Absentee Board Member Syndrome

Welcome to More Lessons From the Nonprofit Boardroom Blog, a 40-week journey through the new book, More Lessons From the Nonprofit Boardroom, by Dan Busby and John Pearson. Each Wednesday, we're featuring a guest writer’s favorite snippet from the week's topic. Tom Beaumont is our guest blogger this week for the fourth of four lessons in "Part 7: Boardroom Best Practices.” And during this COVID-19 era, the role of the board becomes even more critical. We pray that your board will have God-honoring wisdom as you spiritually discern next steps.

LESSON 27 OF 40: Address Absentee Board Member Syndrome
There are three unhealthy ways that many ministry boards respond to empty chairs at board meetings.

THE BIG IDEA FROM THE BOOK: In Lesson 27, the authors address the all too common problem of no-shows at a scheduled board meeting. From “I hope we have enough for a quorum today” to “I wonder where Joe is, I thought he was coming,” absenteeism is very real and needs a real remedy. Ignoring the empty seats (as tempting as that is) will not result in a healthy board environment.

So what is? Well, part of the answer is recruitment and part of the answer is engagement. Preparation is critical, as is structure. But the root of the remedy is found in motivation and motivation springs from a clear answer to the question, “Why am I here?”

MY FAVORITE INSIGHTS from Lesson 27, pages 146-150:
• Leverage a re-commitment time each year with an annual affirmation statement.”
“Engage the board with an engaging agenda.”
• “No one should be surprised that absenteeism will be addressed when necessary and in a God-honoring way.” 

In the world of camp it is often said, “to bore a kid is a sin.” In the world of the boardroom, total absence of boredom is unachievable (sorry). But what can be achieved is good preparation. The first step in keeping butts in boardroom seats is to be ready, organized, and professional in your planning. Lack of pre-meeting information and in-meeting structure and post-meeting follow-up invites un-involvement.

Engagement, however, is the key. I don’t know how many times I have described board members as either being “engaged” or “not engaged.” It’s the difference between being a bump on a log or on the edge of your seat. It changes board meeting time from being a matter of endurance to an expectation of contribution. Engagement is the posture of members knowing that their absence creates a hole that won’t easily be filled and will, in fact, lessen the effectiveness of the board.

Maybe that kind of engagement seems unattainable. But even the smallest measure of it requires motivation. Board members need more than a sense of duty to get them to a meeting and engaged in it. They need to not only love the ministry they are in (that’s the easy part) but know they are critical to its success. They need to grasp that the spiritual objectives carried out by those in the trenches (the staff) must first be grounded in good governance (the board)—and that is a very high calling. 


TOM BEAUMONT is the CEO of The Firs Bible and Missionary Conference, a multi-site, multi-ministry focused on camps and retreats that will celebrate its centennial in 2021. Tom has served at The Firs for almost 36 years with over 40 years in full-time Christian camping. Tom and his wife, Mary, live in Bellingham, Wash., and have three grown children in Oregon and Washington. He has been associated with CCCA (Christian Camp and Conference Association) his whole career and currently serves on the CCCA board of directors as vice-chair.

• Have the right person with the right skills and the necessary time to serve in the critical position of board chair.  
• Work on achieving greater clarity in regards to board meetings, responsibilities, and mission. 
• Visit the ECFA Knowledge Center and read and share the short chapter, Lesson 27, “Address Absentee Board Member Syndrome.”

On July 15, 2020, watch for the commentary by Mike Clabaugh on Lesson 28, “Defending Risks Everywhere Is Not a Strategic Plan. You must discuss the risk elephant in the room.”

BULK ORDERS: Click here. For more resources and to download the book's Table of Contents, visit the book's webpage.

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