The Mikuska Group  

Long-term board members can hurt your organization

If your board has members who have served longer than 10 years with no end in sight, you should think about a by-law review to include term limits.

“But,” you say, “We need their institutional memory! We need their long-term perspective!”

You may well value those assets, but you don’t need them taking up a seat on your board.

Members who have been there a long time can suck the energy out of your board. Newer members defer to their “wisdom.” They disengage from the work of the board. They stop debate by saying “We tried that, it didn’t work, so we shouldn’t try it again.” Who can argue with that logic, right? Wrong.

Board members need to feel they are all contributors and be expected to contribute to decision-making. They should be recruited for their skill, experience and passion for the mission. And they should know from the outset that their time on the board comes with limits. Not only will this actually help in recruiting and retaining good members, it will ensure you have continuous renewal.

As for those long-time board members? Create an honorary advisory committee, and commit to bringing them together regularly. Appoint an honorary historian of the board. Ask them to head a task force. Keep them engaged, just not as board members.

Julie Mikuska


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