This blog post is written in response to the invitation of this month’s Nonprofit Blog Carnival to write an anonymous letter to board volunteers about something that bugs you. This is for those quiet volunteers who have so much to contribute.
Dear Board Members,
I’ve been sitting on your board for a while and just don’t feel like I fit in. When you invited me to apply for board membership, I was excited. I’ve seen the wonderful work you do in our community and personally know people whose lives you’ve touched. I was honored that you thought I had something worthwhile to contribute.
Now it seems like I’m not what you are looking for. I didn’t rush to chair a committee or volunteer to be an officer. I wanted some time to understand how the board works, and where I could best be of service. I like time to review the board packet and prepare for upcoming discussions. It is important to me that we have policies in place that protect the organization and the board. I want to spend time planning for the future and setting checkpoints so we know we are on course.
The things that matter to me don’t seem to be important to the rest of the board. At too many meetings we make rushed decisions based on a quick verbal report. A couple of take change members always dominate the discussion. I don’t share my opinions, as I’ve learned that differences in viewpoint aren’t valued and the loudest voice often wins. When I did speak up to suggest a board retreat for future planning, most of the board thought it was a waste of time. I didn’t make that mistake a second time.
It’s obvious to me now that you don’t know who I am and what my strengths are. I have to wonder if you even care. My calm, confident exterior and history of leadership and community involvement led you to believe I’m like you, but I’m not. I don’t define success in terms of how many fundraising events we put on this year, which movers and shakers sit on the board, or how much recognition we receive. I define success as using our extensive skills, knowledge and passion for the mission to help more people and build a stronger community.
Have you ever wondered why people resign from the board and move on like I’m going to? Even if you asked them they wouldn’t tell you the truth. It’s easier to just walk away and not rock the boat. How different it might be if board diversity didn’t just apply to visible characteristics like race and gender. What if diversity also included the go-getter, the detail obsessed, the dreamer, the practical doer, the out-going and the introvert? What if we learned to truly value the strengths, and differences, each of us bring to this volunteer board? What if we worked together to give our best and feel the rewards of investing our time in a meaningful way?
It soon will be recruitment season again. I hope you will take time to really think about what this organization needs to fulfill its vision for the community. I hope you will take time to ask questions about shared values and what board candidates want to contribute. Most of all I hope you will work to create a board culture where all views and voices are welcome at the table.
That’s a board I would like to be of service to.
An Ex-Board Member