Part 2 – Problem Nonprofit Board Members

In a previous blog of this series we talked about how to handle problem board members. We suggested using your board expectation agreement to outline some basic behavior that is expected of board members. Ground rules are also a way to let board members know from the beginning that the board operates in ways that are considerate and inclusive for everyone on the board. What if, even with your best efforts, you still have a board member who makes it harder for the board to function? Here are three that are common to many boards, and how to improve the nonprofit board experience.

Problem Board Members

problem nonprofit board members


Cindy just can’t resist telling a story. Whatever the discussion is about, Cindy has a story about the “good old days” or what someone at work said about that same subject. What do you do before everyone else on the board falls asleep?

This is one of the instances where having a time-based agenda can save you! If you allot a specific amount of time to every item on the agenda, you can say at the beginning of the agenda item discussion that you have 15 minutes to discuss. It gives you the opening to say (kindly) to Cindy that it’s time to move on or that several other people also have comments to make.


Unfortunately, some people believe that their opinions matter more than others. Others are just not aware that they take over every conversation. What can you do? Perhaps you can have a conversation outside of the board meeting with Dom.

You can explain to your Dominator that others don’t speak up because Dom is the first to respond to every question. Explain that you need to hear from others at the table. Point out they respect his opinion and tend to “let” Dom decide for them. Enlist Dom’s help to get others to speak up and make a more engaged nonprofit board experience. Giving Dom the ego gratification he craves by asking him to help to draw others out may give everyone a break.


This is the Dominator’s first cousin. They are the person who jumps in before someone is finished speaking. Ground rules are the answer for this problem. If you have a ground rule of “No interrupting” or “Respect the speaker” you can point to the ground rule because you post the ground rules at every meeting. You can stop the Interrupter in her tracks.

The Nonprofit Board Experience Matters

The best solution for handling problem board members is prevention. Read Part 1 for some of those ideas. We’ll discuss the Know-It-All, the Naysayer and the Topic Jumper in a future blog. Are there some specific problem board members you’d like us to discuss? Send your questions to us! We’ll address them in a future blog.

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