Nonprofit Ally

Dealing with a rogue board member creates turmoil and dysfunction within an organization and can be a tricky situation to resolve. In this podcast I talk with Laurie Wolf, MNPL, CFRE – the Vice President/COO of The Foraker Group – about how to identify, deal with and prevent rogue board members. Laurie gives training’s on nonprofit governance, strategic planning and resource development. She was selected as one of the “Top 40 under 40” leaders in Alaska by the Chamber of Commerce in 2005.

Definition of a Rogue Board Member

A rogue board member is a board member who uses their authority outside the jurisdiction of the board as a whole. Often their actions are no longer serving the better good of the organization but instead our based on a personal agenda and what they feel is “right” for the organization. Rogue board member behavior can manifest in many ways but commonly targets the organizations Executive Director. This can result in staff feeling bullied and/or abused by the rogue member.

Signs You Have a Rogue Board Member

Micro-managing staff, board meetings become full of surprises, adversarial behavior (including playing devil’s advocate), knit-picking executive director decisions, often loudest board member, member yields more power than other members (remember all board members should have equal power), executive director (and other board members) begin feeling bullied.

How to Deal with a Rogue Board Member

Talking directly with someone that demonstrates hostility and unpredictability is challenging. But not addressing the situation can lead to a passive-aggressive situation where some type of “explosion” can happen at an inappropriate time and/or location. Do your best to deal with a rogue board situations as soon as possible. Here are some suggested steps to take:

  1. Talk to the Member: Directly communicate with the board member. This should be a non-confrontational conversation focused on listening and relationship building.
  2. Involve the Board Chair: Go to your board chair (unless your chair is the rogue member) and let them know about the situation. The board chair should then have a peer-to-peer discussion with the rogue member to determine the nature of the behavior and possibly help the rogue member adjust their behavior in accordance with proper board governance.
  3. Have a Conference Meeting: If behavior continues, again inform the board chair and request the three of you (the rogue member, the board chair and your self) meet to discuss the situation and how to resolve the conflict. This is a good time to brush up on “I statements”. Note: This is not a “secret meeting”. The board president should keep the other board members informed of the situation as it develops.
  4. Hold an Executive Session: By this time, it is likely the entire board is aware of the situation. The board should an executive session (including the rogue member and possible the executive director) to discuss the situation and try to remedy it
  5. Removal of Board Member: This is a tough situation, but the board has to do what is best for the health, and in some cases the survival, of the organization. Be sure that your organizations bylaws are followed to the letter.

Risk/Consequences of Having a Rogue Board Member

  • Not longer fulfilling mission
  • Lose board members
  • Lose your executive director and other staff member(s)
  • Lose credibility as an organization within your community
  • Legal issue (depending on extent of abuse)

Preventative Measures

  • Have a strategic plan and stay focused on mission
  • Create board member job descriptions
  • Be sure to govern in accordance with your by-laws
  • Have a strong Board Development committee focusing on training, recruitment, mentoring

Links & Resources

“Board Bullies”, an article by The Foraker Group CEO/President, Dennis G. McMillian
The Foraker Group Newsletter
The Foraker Group Webpage: www.forakergroup.org
Contact the Foraker Group: www.forakergroup.org/index.cfm/contactformontact

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8 Comments
  1. Lorraine 1 year ago

    Hi Steve,

    I am grasping at straws these days to get help. I am a member of a nonprofit association. As members we keep horses at the association’s property and are members to enjoy riding and having horses. But we have an entrenched board and in my opinion and others, they are not handling the operation of the business side of things such as we can’t find evidence of the 2014 990 return being filed, they allowed the status as a corporation get revoked and if it wasn’t for me it would still be in revoked status yet they continued to conduct business in the state of Nevada. As a result, they really don’t like me because I also pointed out that the property taxes weren’t paid and it cost the association $2,000 in fines and late fees. They haven’t produced a budget in years. They do not operate in transparency, conducting closed door meetings after the board meeting has been adjourned. I have been vocal about these things and they are retaliating against me and also not being truthful at meetings at my expense. What do I do? There are other members who also feel the way I do and that is this board had been around for too long, about 5 years, and they do what they feel they want to do and will not address business matters yet they love to write letters to members they don’t like, me included, to get them kick out. One member has already been kicked out and it was while the corporation was on a revoked status which means they weren’t supposed to conduct any business.If you are friends with the board you’re okay but if you are not then watch out. They do not know how to be fair and impartial. What do I do? I’ve been there for 40 years, since I was 13 years old.

  2. J. Stevens 1 year ago

    This was a huge help for our particular organization.

    • Author
      Steve 1 year ago

      So glad it was helpful. It is a stressful situation to go through for everyone. I am glad this was a useful resource for you.

  3. Rolf Asphaug 2 years ago

    Dear Steve – I’m an employee of a governmental organization scheduled to give a presentation to a transit association on board member challenges. Although many of our association’s organizations have elected boards, many of the suggestions you provide still apply. May I have permission to copy your article and include it – with prominent attribution – in my written materials to accompany my presentation? Thank you for any help you can provide. Rolf G. Asphaug, Deputy General Counsel, Regional Transportation District, Denver

    • Author
      Steve 2 years ago

      Hi Rolf,
      That is fine. Just site the article link, author (Steve Vick) and of course my podcast guest (Laurie Wolf).

      If you didn’t listen to the podcast it is worth a listen. You can download (link above). Glad you found this page helpful. And thanks for contacting me about this. Good luck with the presentation.

      Steve

      • Rolf Asphaug 2 years ago

        Thank you very much, Steve! I’ll be sure to do so and will also listen to the podcast. Thanks for providing such useful information. Best wishes, Rolf

  4. mitch davis 3 years ago

    excellent podcast. thank you for sharing steve. keep up the good work

    • Author
      Steve 3 years ago

      Thank Mitch. Glad it was helpful.

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