Some Board members serve for a year. Some serve forever. Which is better?
While there are pros and cons to both approaches, conventional wisdom has Boards with defined term limits.
Not sure where you stand? Here are a few quick Pros and Cons thanks to very smart folks at BoardSource.
The pros of term limits
• Provide opportunity for the board and organization to work with talented community members who can devote only a few years to board service
• Make it easier to diversity your board, which brings new ideas and new perspectives to the board and its decision-making process
• Enable you to avoid stagnation, tiredness, boredom, and loss of commitment that can sometimes set in when board members serve long terms
• Enable you to avoid the perpetual concentration of power within a small group of people and the intimidation of new members by this dominant group
• When staggered, provide a built-in balance of continuity and turnover
• Allow for rotation of committee assignments
• Raise awareness of and provide opportunities to change and improve group dynamics
• Provide a respectful and efficient mechanism for the exit of passive, ineffective, or troublesome board members
• Enlarge your circle of committed supporters as members rotate off the board
• Enable the board to easily adjust its membership to reflect the organization’s changing needs
The cons of term limits
• Potential loss of expertise or insight that has benefitted the board and organization over time
• Potential loss of organizational memory
• Need for the governance committee to dedicate more time to the identification, recruitment, and orientation of new board members
• Need to dedicate additional time to building the cohesiveness of the board as members rotate on and off the board
Like every good rule, there are exceptions. Need more? This handy resource (did I mention it's free) from Board Source can help you decide what is best for you and your board.
Ann Rosenfield, MBA, CFRE is the Board Vice Chair for Rainbow Railroad. She is a past Board member for AFP, CAGP, and serves on the Imagine Canada Standards exemption committee. The opinions above are her own (she has lots of opinions).