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Why be board president?
Influencing the path of the nonprofit, Personal fulfillment, Personal Recognition, Do it because you can, because the nonprofit needs you.


Most common duties of the board president: Public Speaking, Preparing the board meeting agenda, Leading board meetings, Listening to your board members

Some thoughts on dealing with board members who monopolize your time.
“I know you feel passionately about this, but we have to give Linda the space to run the operations, within the guidelines of the budget and policy. I’d suggest bringing up your idea during the conversation about next year’s budget if you feel that it’s that important, and we’ll see what the rest of the board thinks.”

“I know you feel very passionately about this, but the marketing committee knows how tightly we have our resources stretched. We can’t implement every good idea, and we have to trust the marketing committee to keep us focused.”

“Why don’t you join the fundraising committee at their next meeting and run your thoughts by them? If you can’t make it, I’m sure the committee chair would want to hear your concerns.”

“I agree. You should bring it up at the next board meeting. I’ll back you on it one hundred percent.”

“Why don’t you give Jerry a call and talk it over with him? See if there’s an issue that needs to be cleared up, or if it was something that was unintentional. If you both can’t reach an understanding, the three of us can meet and we’ll talk things over together.”

  • “I know this is important to you, but I just cannot give any more time to this right now. Why don’t you see how things go for a while, and give me an update when I see you at the next board meeting?”
  • “I appreciate your inviting me to join in this discussion, but weighing in on this probably falls outside my role as president.”
  • “I need to focus on my family and my work and my other duties as board president. I just can’t add this to my plate right now.”
  • The board president does not answer to the beck and call of an individual board member, especially if individuals frequently ask for too much of your time.
  • Refer board members who ask for too much of your time back into the committee and board structure to get them off your plate.
  • When in doubt, get things out into the open quickly and moderate a discussion.

Having hard conversations with board members

  • “Praise in public, and criticize in private.” A good proverb for dealing with volunteers. You probably shouldn’t call someone out in front of the rest of the board unless there has been an immediate transgression that significantly crossed the line.
  • Emails are almost always misinterpreted. Use the phone or meet in person.
  • Memorize your first line. The first time I had to fire an employee, I used this mental trick to make sure that I didn’t stumble all over myself trying to ease into giving bad news and end up saying nothing. So memorize the first sentence that you want to say. Once the Band-Aid has been ripped off, it’s easier to have a productive conversation. It’s actually helpful to the person you’re talking to, as well, because he or she doesn’t have to strain to understand what the topic is about just because you’re afraid to get to the point.
  • Remember that the other board members or staff members are counting on you. You are having the hard conversation because the other board members are relying on you to do so. They are the ones being hurt by this board member’s behavior. Keep them in mind.
  • After the discussion, remind the board member how glad you are to have them on the board. Praise is best after a tough conversation, not before. (If you praise someone before the hard conversation, the next time you praise them, they can’t help but wonder what’s coming next.)

Listening to your executive director; Having hard conversations with your executive director, Making nice when needed, Signing checks, How NOT to become essential, Find your replacement and Using the soft power of board leadership


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