5 Reasons to Have Board Term Limits and Then Some

One of the questions we hear is, “Should we have term limits on our non-profit board?” Approximately one-third of non-profit organizations may not have term limits for board chairs. There are some good reasons for having a term limit not only for board members, but also for board chairs.

  1. Term limits are an easy way to retire with grace someone who may not be doing a good job. Sometimes the wrong person gets into a position of authority and with term limits in place, you know that they won’t be there indefinitely.
  2. Term limits may make the board chair more appealing to prospective recruits who feel overwhelmed with the amount of time and energy it will require.
  3. Term limits force organizations to develop new leaders in their field, which will ultimately lead to more impact for their cause.
  4. Term limits can help with fundraising as current board chairs may exhaust their contacts or get tired of asking for funds.
  5. Term limits can lead to healthier boards as it can reduce the opportunity for a small group of individuals to dominate board meetings, bring in fresh ideas and energy and prevent burn-out.

Any term limits set should be established in the By Laws of the organization. One-to-two years per service is a low-end limit, but three years is preferred for continuity, with a third of the members rotating off each year. Some organizations adopt a one-year probationary term. A first-time board member serves for one year to judge if she and the organization are a good fit. If so, the board member is able to stay on for a full-term. But if not, the member is able to retire from the board and a new one is elected to take her place.

If your organization is in a small community, term limits may not be an easy task. However, it is important to establish clear guidelines for the Board of Directors and any removal procedures for unproductive board members in the organizational By Laws.

We discuss the importance of a non-profit’s board in our Back to Basics class, which will be offered in April. Each organization which attends the Back to Basics course is eligible to receive one Toolkit, which contains valuable resources including a funding directory, a Field Guide to Developing, Operating and Restoring a Non-Profit Board, and much more. See below for the date and keep an eye on our website for the next Board Basics class.

This article was featured in the March 2011 issue of our monthly newsletter, CDP PressSign up today!

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