The expectations for board members have been on a sharp rise for the past two decades. Companies are relying more and more on their directors both inside and outside of the boardroom, and with that dependence comes an often inevitable outcome—board burnout. Although directors at for-profit companies may feel this strain, it’s especially common among their nonprofit counterparts. Since nonprofit board roles are usually volunteer-based, it’s not uncommon for members to take early or unexpected exits from their positions. Here are some tips for avoiding “burnout” situations.
- Don’t take on more than you can handle.
It may sound simple, but if you can’t tackle the extra hours needed to head up a committee or act as the board secretary, politely decline those leadership positions. It’s better to stay in a less demanding role (if you still feel connected to the cause) than it is to leave and force the organization to fill a void.
- Don’t let your board meeting prep become a cram session.
It’s easy to put board responsibilities off until the week of your next meeting, but that can lead to serious conflicts with your day-to-day job. It can also make your board responsibilities feel more overwhelming than they really are. If your company utilizes a board software product, it’s easy to split up your work throughout the month. Choose two days a week and set aside a couple of hours for meeting preparation. Read over your latest board packet in installments rather than all at once (and let’s be honest, you might skip a few items if you’re trying to do too much at one time).
- Do build relationships with your fellow directors.
You may not be extremely familiar with your colleagues when you begin your board service, but it will definitely help you in the long run if you get to know them outside of meeting times. Plan lunches to learn about them one-on-one. This is also a great way to gauge interest in ideas you may have for future growth or to develop more advocates for your areas of concern.
- Do disconnect when you can.
We know you’re dedicated to your board service, but nothing will burn you out faster than a nonstop connection to all things board-related. We’re not telling you to ignore important emails or to disregard your board tasks, but we are telling you to take a breather when the pace slows down.