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Your Best Before Date: Leave Them Wanting More

governance transition Oct 20, 2021

- By Sophie Pinkoski 

As any organization’s Annual General Meeting rolls around, many members of its board of directors will have the same thing on their minds: should I stand for re-election or another term? If your appointment or term is coming to an end and you are in this situation, you may have mixed feelings about considering leaving a position you have dedicated so much time and energy to over the years. Yet if you’ve found you’ve been unable to devote the same time and energy to the board as you once did, it’s important to explore what’s keeping you from fully engaging. There are many valid indicators that it’s time for you to move on: 

Burnout – Any board is going to involve a certain amount of work. When you have board commitments and responsibilities on top of other aspects of your life such as your job and family, it’s easy to become overwhelmed. Add to that the fact that our lives and circumstances are constantly changing, we can’t always predict where we’ll be from one year to the next.

If you’re already feeling pressured outside your board work, it may be an indication that it’s time to reassess your priorities. 

It’s better to accept that you might have to make sacrifices as you get busier to maintain a healthy life balance than to hope that things settle down at a later date. 

Family responsibilities – Throughout the pandemic especially, it’s not uncommon for directors to step down in the face of family emergencies, or to care for sick loved ones. After working from home for so long, many have come to value the time they spend with their families over their professional lives.

While serving on a board may not be as onerous as a full- time job, it still takes time and energy to keep up with your duties.

When added on top of work and family, board responsibilities might become the right thing to set aside.  

No longer able to contribute what you set out to achieve – When considering whether you should stay on for another term, it’s important to reflect upon why you joined the board in the first place. What motivated you to get involved?

In times of rapid change for organizations, your original intent may not be relevant anymore.

You may have once filled a gap in the board’s skill matrix when you first joined, but as you potentially enter another term, those skills may be covered by other board members or they may not be as high of a priority. Allowing for someone new to step into your role with different knowledge or skills could be more beneficial to the organization than if you stuck around without the same level of engagement as you once had. 

This is a big decision. If you are struggling to know what to do, have open conversations with others who can add objective perspective. The board chair, CEO, and other board members may be able to explore your choices. However, if they are only offering for you to stay, consider seeking input from other people you know in the governance community. Find people who can help you explore the decision. 

At the end of the day, it’s okay to admit that you don’t want to continue on a board.

A board of directors should have a regular rotation of board members to allow for a constant flow of unique perspectives and fresh ideas.

If you come to the end of your term and find you don’t have the same capacity or productive contributions you once had, doing what’s best for you could ultimately be what’s also best for the board. 


Further Reading:   

Board Resignation: When and How? Director Point 

How to Resign from a Volunteer Board, BoardEffect 

When is the Best Time to Step Down as a Non-Executive Board Member?, Future Directors 

Seven Signs It May Be Time to Resign from Your Board, Canadian Lawyer 

How to Best Approach Nonprofit board Member Resignation, BoardEffect 




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