Boards training workshop March 2014/Minutes

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Board training workshop - minutes

The role of the board and how roles of board members and staff differ[edit]

(The slides of the presentation are the basis for the following notes and are not reproduced here)

The board[edit]

Legally responsible for

  • overall direction
  • effectiveness
  • supervision
  • accountability

Twelve board essentials[edit]

  • Defined group of people. It is not always the case that everybody who is on the board knows that they are on the board and do have legal responsibilities. Terminology: Board members, Trustees.
  • Defined role for the chair. The Chair is responsible for the group as a whole, leading it, organising it, play a crucial role. Good chairs are a rare breed and hard to find. Advice to board members: Learn something about it, read about it, understand what it involves.
  • Agreed terms of office. Term conditions should be agreed at the beginning of a term. Usually number of years + term limit. Common term conditions: 2 terms of 4 years or 3 terms of 3 years. Board members need time to learn how to do the job.
  • Understanding responsibility and time required. "It's just three meetings a year"…. In practice it's way more. Legal responsibilities and general duties should be defined.
  • Each meeting well planned. Meetings: The better planned, the better! What papers do we need?
  • Good attendance at meeting. Regular attendance: Advise and expectation. Common attendance rule: “Two strikes and you're out (meaning 2 consecutive meetings missed). General attendance for board members should be at least 80%, for the board chair it should be 100%.
  • Work as a team. Understand the dynamics of a team, self-reflection.
  • Good at listening, praising, respecting.
  • Clear about decision taken. Be clear about decisions. For each agenda item, make clear what the board decided.
  • Take collective responsibility.
  • Clear notes and action points.
  • Good at following through.

Questions / Comments[edit]

About terms of office: there is a board member who clearly cannot do the job. He/she does not want to resign. Should they still be allowed to stick to the one year term or to resign?

  • Be clear about expectations before s.o. applies, e.g. time available, language, IT skills, board experience, finance, audit. Could be quite specific.
  • Review board members and their performance. Probation period?
  • There should be a clear way to get out of office.
  • The chair's responsibility is to handle this.

2 year terms, but don't have enough people who want to run for the board.

  • Board is planning who is going to be on the next board. Actively work towards this. Push them into specific areas before, build up candidates
  • On the contrary, there might be too many candidates, without knowing what to expect. Quite popular among the community, but doesn't have the necessary skills
  • When boards put enough effort into finding people, it's possible to get them. Think about it as recruiting for a job.

2/3rds have board members that are not involved with wikimedia projects

  • This is a question about mandates and democracy.
  • Elections are just a method of finding members. Just because a board is elected doesn't mean it's good.
  • Having a board with the right skills does not necessarily involve elections.
  • "Managed democracy": before people can stand, make sure the candidate has the necessary skills. Not only good speakers in front of an assembly.

Evolving role of a non-profit board[edit]

There are several stages a board and the organisation go through:

  • Founding Phase: at the end of this stage the organisation often has to got through a crisis.
  • Early growth:
  • Appointing staff:
  • Maturing organisation:
  • Adult phase:

These stages are clearly not the same for everybody, but most get through it.

Questions / Comments[edit]

  • Difference from Wikimedia today and 10 years ago: There's an overarching framework with big expectations, so it's way harder to get through these stages today. Overall evolution of the organisation as an international body. It's harder to go through the three first phases now, as Wikimedia itself is at a high stage of professionalism and demands a lot of organisations at earlier stages.
  • This fact ought to make it easier not harder, but that's not the case at the moment.
  • One of the issues is that you're not just starting an organisation noone has heard of. There’s a big amount of public interest in what you are doing.

What are the roles of the board[edit]

  • Set and maintain mission, vision and values.
  • Develop strategy, monitor performance and impact.
  • Establish and monitor policies. This has to be in accordance with international policies.
  • Maintain financial viability and oversight.
  • Ensure accountability. Also, to the press
  • Select and support the chief executive. Finding an executive director. That is the single most important task of a board.
  • Manage risk.
  • Ensure compliance with law and the governing document.
  • Review governance effectiveness. Have we good arrangements there? Resp for own performance
  • Provide insight and wise judgement. Stand back, come from different worlds, have and share wisdom

Questions / Comments[edit]

  • As the board grows, there's increasing separation between what the board does and what staff does
  • With respect to finding an executive director: firing the executive director is also an important point. This is very tricky, but sometimes necessary. You need arrangements in place that enable you to do that. Involve employment lawyers here, this is essential.
  • The board must be able to step far back enough to make drastic decisions, change all and everything. Rebooting the organisation. In one organisation, that took over 18 months (which were a nightmare). In a crisis you need to be able to review everything, even own existence.

Discussion groups: the variety of roles in your organisation and how can we improve the clarity of roles?[edit]

  • Define the roles, explain the process to people.
  • Conduct regular self evaluation.
  • Think about your role as professionals, distinguish between role and personal relationship / friendship.
  • Board has to make decisions, communicate and explain them.
  • Organisations should not be afraid to bring in an outside expertise.
  • Distinguish between what I can do and what I must do as a board member.
  • Define how committee member roles work with the community - governance committees and task/action groups.
  • Have a clear definition of what board members need to do.
  • Translate the general government points to Wikimedia: some will never have an ED or staff. We have high expectations as an overall movement. As a movement we essentially have no money problem.
  • Separate community role and board role. There's never complete clarity, but the more distinction, the better.

How really effective governance works[edit]


  • Board size: The board needs to be big enough to come up with a range of ideas. If it is too big, though, it becomes impossible to manage. A good board typically consists of 5-14 members
  • Term limits: after that, possibly stand down for a year, but can come back again.
  • Committee types: e.g. audit, choose new board members, finance. How big are they? Typically 3-5 board members.


  • Succession planning: start a year ahead.
  • Seek diversity in skills and experience.


  • Attendance: ED present or not? Are there observers? It is useful to have periods of meeting without any staff. This is typically towards the end of a session, in stages, e.g. staff leaves, then ED leaves. Have this scheduled in, in order to avoid insecurity
  • Away days, where the board meets in person.


  • "The board isn't using my skills": Know the skills of the individual board members. Make sure their skills are drawn upon
  • Stay strategic.
  • Conflict of Interest has become much more of interest in the last few years. When board members or friends get financial gain or benefit from a decision the board takes. Make sure the respective board member is not involved. Manage the CoI's well. Board member should tell the chair at the earliest possible opportunity. Leave the room. Minutes state when person left and came back. Person wasn't involved in the decision. That's public expectation.

Questions / Comments[edit]

What if the person doesn't disclose the CoI?

  • This will then become a question of whether that person wants to be a member of the board in the future (in other words, they are asked to leave).
  • Best practice:
    • Have all board members list all the potential CoI’s at the beginning.
    • This is a declaration of interests, not of existing conflicts.

Top 5 drivers of government performance[edit]

  • Works well as a team. Importance of personal relations.
  • Ensures meetings deliver excellent governance. meetings are well planned
  • Has required skills and experience. Have we got on the board the experiences to do this?
  • Focuses on strategy.
  • Operates with openness and trust. Crucial! Distrust makes the board dysfunctional

Hierarchy of governance improvements[edit]

  • All organisations need a structure
  • Have good processes for managing successions, chair
  • Meetings
  • Behaviours Becomes more difficult from structure to behaviors. But you get increasing gains. Behaviour is what distinguishes a good functional board.

Comments / Questions[edit]

What is collaborative decision making? How can we do that?

  • Best: at the end of a discussion you come to a decision, kind of agree.
  • The opposite is usually a political statement. You have to vote.
  • Collaborative: board members should be able to support a decision, even if they don’t totally agree.

Is it more important to make decisions or consensus?

  • It's always a balance. Limited time, but want everybody to come with you. Someone (the chair) should anticipate, when a discussion is necessary and prepare this. In this case, allow time. The differentiation is hard to do in practice.
  • Look at persons and characters: do they fit in the dynamics, skills are only second to that.
  • A board is a political body, there is lobbying. To become efficient: acknowledge that. Know what we want to achieve, where we want to go. The board is leading. Come in prepared enough. It's a lot about manipulation. How to build up a group in order to achieve the right goal at the end. Even in Wikimedia, the most important decisions are the result of lobbying.
  • Not a good idea to manipulate. Do it in openness. Not with a bad intention.
  • This is about managing decisions, not about bad manipulation. Organize support for a decision. Encourage or persuade might be a better concept.
  • Experience with a very strong character: He/she would not tolerate different opinions. That came back to him/her, as no one dared to challenge his/her view when he/she was doing something crazy. Ergo always allow for opposition.
  • Be rational, do not disagree on the basis of emotions. Do not take anything personal.
  • Never start a board meeting at 9pm.

Wikimedia UK and others - case studies[edit]

Wikimedia UK[edit]

Chris was approached to join board because of fundraising skills. The stated expectation was: "Only five meetings a year". So he made a decision to stand. At the general assembly, he was speaking about how many articles edited and got elected. Eventually he was involved in the process to hire executive director and staff.

In 2012: There was a conflict of interest case. There was a board member who was privately setting up QRpedia projects and WMUK was also doing this. It was not clear which of these projects were WMUK projects. Did money from WMUK go to that trustee? Luckily, the answer was "no". But there were too many questions that were not answered or were answered but couldn't be proven, because it was not in the minutes or publicly available.

At that stage WMUK decided to do an external review. They hired an external consultant to come and audit their governance processes, behaviours, structures and meetings. Much of the consultant's work was not about the conflict of interest, but about behaviour as a board.

The board had conflict of interest policy and there was a trustee code of conduct document.

When WMUK first got questions about this case, some said: we have a policy, so nothing wrong. However, the issue they really had, was that trustees were not being aware of their responsibilities, legal and community expectations. People had bonded together, they weren't challenging each other, because “we're all friends”. There was too much acceptance and too less challenging the board members. At the same time, there was too much challenging of the staff.

In resolving this, it was very helpful to work with an external consultant. It helped a big deal to work on documentation. The board has changed quite significantly, from then.

WMUK has recruited new trustees in the last months. However, the board has not been tested in difficult situations. But it should have much more focus on responsibilities, experience, challenge each other in a constructive way.

Openness on boards is important. But also between WM organisations, chapters and WMF. For a while WMUK didn't tell the others about their problems. This caused a lot of problems. Once we were frank about our situation, we started to get some quite support, e.g. emails from San Francisco. We got very constructive comments and help.

Across the boards[edit]

Delphine shares her experience across the boards. These range from boards with a budget of 5 thousand to 5 million dollars. She lived through some transitions, e.g. WMFR starting fundraising with dramatic increase of their budget.

In terms of governance: The question is: why does Wikimedia need money if we have volunteers. But not always do the skills of volunteers fit into the demands of the tasks to do (e.g. send 10 thousand tax receipts in a week). So consider skills, time and motivation. Ask yourself, when do my skills fit, when do we need help? What must we do and what can we do need not necessarily overlap. You have to learn and reflect upon yourself: what is it that I can give to the organisation that helps? When do I need to come in, when to step out? As board member you fill a role, but you are not the organization. Be part of the process to build the continuity of the organisation. This doesn't automatically mean you need staff. Sometimes you have to plant the seed, but someone else will do the task (maybe even after you leave the position). Learn to step down, learn to realize the things you can't do.

In organisational growth, the things you are going to bring to the strategy as a board may come from the outside, e.g. from staff. The role of the board evolves from making the strategy to be the sounding board that assesses strategy being developed elsewhere.

When is it time to change my behaviour? Be self-assessing, self-critical. Others might have little less skill/experience, but the might have more motivation.

Comments / Questions[edit]

  • It's important to keep the paces synchronized. The board needs to take the same pace as the organisation. If the gap is too large, it might damage the overall organisation.

Transition process to get first staff member: What's the right way to go there? What should the first employee look like?

  • There's no right way. Hire ED, hire staff, hire 3 or 4 people, not hire anyone. There are many options, depends on the structure. You need to have the structures in place to take that step. Also, you need the right people: Someone will just have to do it. Not every organisation will have to grow. Assess your needs and see what is best for you.
  • The development is not linear. You go up on the organisation path, fall back, go up again.
  • You are going to fail. That's normal. Every organisation has been failing. Crisis: as you are changing you don't know how to handle the situation properly. As an organisation you have to fail, but you have to learn. The experience is needed. You have to go through all the steps. Make mistakes at the beginning.
  • This weekend, the workshop, is all about making less bad mistakes.
  • Having an employee is not a goal in itself.

What needs to happen to make a good relationship between board members and staff/volunteers[edit]

Group work, question was divided by roles Chair, Board members, Executive Director and Staff


  • They have to create a good atmosphere: getting things a little bit social, keeping the board on good terms, keep the board reasonable, etc.
  • They can split tasks: build (unofficial) subcommittees, get people involved and responsible as a team. Everyone needs to be informed and feel responsible.
  • Work on the information flow: it should be well documented, and on a proper level, not too little, but also no over information. The Chair is ultimately responsible for the information flow to the board.
  • Chair and note-taker roles are separate.
  • Often, the Chair's responsibility is about external stuff, whereas the Vice Chair responsible for internal stuff.
  • Not all vice chairs make good chairs.

Board members[edit]

  • Clarify the roles and expectations of the board and board members.
  • In one instance, the chair clarified the board's role on every item on the agenda. This was very helpful.
  • About public statements: Board members need to be careful of what they say or criticize: they play a role in the organisation and their voice counts.
  • Clarify ways of communications.
  • Take collective responsibility. When the board comes to a decision, every board member should be willing to defend that decision.
  • Delegate decisions within the board. And trust subcommittees to make that decision.

Questions / Comments[edit]

Can you indicate it's not your decision but you go with the rational arguments

  • It's not black and white, but if you think you need to disagree with all the decisions, you need to think whether this is the right board for you. On one board, there was a member who opposed everything and demanded to paste lengthy statements in the minutes. That's not a constructive way.
  • You have the right to disagree in the protocol.
  • It's good for the public to understand that the board is not a big monolithic thing. In one case, initially, the board stuck to a collectively responsible line, but as the discussion evolved, it was possible to identify individual opinions.
  • There's a specific positional power: as a board member, what you say has a lot more impact. So you have to change the way you say it, in a way that respects the fact your voice has a lot more weight now.

Chief executive[edit]

  • Link between staff and board and vice versa. Must be open with the board.
  • Characteristics: Autonomous, experienced.
  • Empowered with a lot of power, but needs to respond for that power.
  • Building trust, bringing in trust into the organisation.
  • Should be empowering the board instead of preventing the board.
  • More interested in promoting the organisation than themself.
  • Leader in the organisation (in the shadow).

Questions / Comments[edit]

  • Boards are not very experienced or disciplined. EDs have to realize that the board will be difficult. Their staff needs to do a little bit of cat-herding. This is not a role for everybody, it's challenging.
  • Chair and ED should be on the same page, bring a unified position to the board. Both are very visible. This is the single most important link in the organisation. Have enough time to work on the relationship.


  • Need to understand what they can and cannot do in the name of the organisation.
  • Need to understand the role of the board and help the board by providing feedback, reports on their work, to avoid friction between volunteers and board members.
  • They can communicate the role of the board to the community.

Questions / Comments[edit]

Crossover between staff and community member

  • This is fine as long as it is clear what the person is doing in which role and those roles don't overlap.
  • As a Wikimedia organisation, we must be very tolerant with respect to the distinction. Because a hard distinction doesn't match the way WM works.
  • Declare in advance what projects you are working on as volunteer.
  • Staff working in the movement has to accept higher standards than a volunteer, because of press coverage, etc.
  • Staff members have certain duties, because they're being paid.

Performance review of board members[edit]


Methods for assessing board performance:

  • Meeting feedback: at the end of each meeting, 5 minutes
  • Discussions outside the meetings: especially Chairs should seek feedback.
  • Chair appraisal: board should tell the chair (formally) what is good and what can be improved.
  • Self-assessment: once a year evaluation. Answer questions about whether the board has delivered effectively.
  • Independent observation: invite externals to watch the board and provide feedback.
  • Benchmarking: against other boards
  • Individual feedback for every board member: fill in form (appreciate, like them to do differently). Chair would individually talk with each board member.
  • Independent evaluation (external)

Comments / Questions[edit]

Self-improvement of the board is important

  • You need to find a balance: how much time can you put into those processes. You need to be convinced this is necessary and need to be on the point of it. Self-assessment and individual feedback is really helpful.

Could the foundation do the assessment?

  • Peer review is better than headquarter reviewing others in a federal structure

When recruiting, say "expect this, to be reviewed"

  • Start with defining what you are looking for when you are looking for board member. Often, simply a description is lacking.

Characteristics of really effective boards[edit]

Ad 3): even if they're elected

Ad 4):

Chapters dialogue[edit]

Note: in order to avoid spoilers, detailed minutes of this session will only be available after Wikimedia Conference

In spring 2013 it was realized there's an urgent need for common understanding about needs, goals and fears of people in Wikimedia organisations. So a qualitative research was conducted: stories were collected among members of the Chapters, the Foundation, the FDC and AffCom. Now the project is in the analysis phase.

The result is an overview of the state of the movement. It should give us the whole picture in discussion. It describes problems, challenges and needs and does not provide solutions. The next step would be figuring out who can take ownership for finding solutions.

The presentation given was only a preview. The official presentation will be at Wikimedia Conference.

After the presentation, a discussion started about the state of the movement. Some participants expressed their disappointment that the organizations' main issues are still the same as some five years ago. Others noticed that we are looking at a organisations which are at different stages of their evolution. There was some consensus that we need to provide an organisational framework for affiliates so they do not have to worry about the basic stuff. It was pointed out that there are quite some success stories of cooperation, e.g. EU lobbying.

Strategy, planning and evaluation[edit]

Strategy is about a non-obvious choice. It's about eliminating a path you'd like to follow


How does the FDC process work[edit]

This is how the process internally works and why it is important to have a good strategy in place.

  • First, there’s a evaluation of an FDC application by staff, then by FDC members.
  • In the FDC, deliberations are pretty hard, a long discussion, intense.
    • Before deliberation starts, a person suggests to allocate a specific amount of money.
    • There’s quite often some spread between suggestions. So statistical measures are used as a basis.
    • If an FDC member has a potential conflict of interest, it does not participate in the deliberation.
  • In order to reach consensus, they use a method called “gradients of agreement”.
    • There's a proposed amount of funding.
    • FDC members indicate they agree with this proposal on a 1-8 scale: 1 is agree 8 is completely disagree, 4 is I don't care, 6 I don't agree, but will go with it, 5 more discussion needed.

What is the tipping point of agreement, when do you vote?

  • When I have heard all the arguments, I might not necessarily share them, but they do have valid points. The time that's necessary to invest convincing the others is not worth the result.
  • There’s a strong inclination to reach a consensus. If one person disagrees, that's ok, if two disagree, we continue the discussion.

How does the appeals process work

  • Appeals are about individual decisions. If you are against a decision, go to the Board of Trustees and ask to rethink the decision.
  • Complaints is about the process. There's an Ombudsperson. Go to here if you think at some point in the process things have gone wrong

Language context: Do you think that language barriers are hindering?

  • The process before the actual application can help a lot, as questions that are clear are clarified before. In the deliberation process, cultural and language background is considered.

Provide tools to think your strategy[edit]

All the strategy tools are about understanding what you want to do. A simple tool is the SWOT analysis:

  • Can something be a strength and a weakness?

Yes, e.g. being a non-profit organisation. Depending on your identity you could use it at strength or weakness. Sometimes even at the same time.

  • Timeframe: A full session of SWOT analysis will take a day.
  • Strategy: is always a about a non-obvious choice between very attractive options. It's about elimination of stuff that doesn't need to be done.
  • Strategy is a coherent plan of actions, to achieve long-term goals
  • Organisational domain: what is the product. Whom do you serve? What do you do and how do you do it?

What do you do when there's a variance in understanding within the movement? Can they coexist?

  • The "Why" is the critical question. That would be rooted in the mission. We cannot possibly assume that a movement of this size has common mission. There will be an alignment, but not in all the details. This can also be used to identify a split.

What when the domain changes?

  • The biggest challenge is that you do not realise your domain is changing. There's a danger that you overlook the change.

What about other entities entering our domain?

  • Google is entering our domain: when you are looking for something, you find the Google infobox, and you don't have to go to Wikipedia. We need to be aware of that.
  • When you look at the internal discussions of hardcore Wikipedians, you find people reasoning we're not an encyclopaedia, but a means to build an encyclopaedia.

Strategic goals[edit]

Defining goals is hard. They have to be precise in the planning part. Methods like SMART help. Often, specificness is missing, also measurability and time-boundness. Do not worry when those measures are not met. But making this exercise is good to find out whether your goals make sense. Being precise shows you thought through what you are talking about. Also, in evaluation, it helps for the reflection.

How many strategic goals should a proposal have?

  • Never only have one goal. If you fail, you have 100% failure.
  • Having five is hard to manage, 3 or 4 are good.
  • Goals are not only for yourself, but for staff and community.

What is the time horizon?

  • About 3 years, typically.
  • One problem with the FDC is that it requires one year planning. There should be components which last for more than one year.


Answer to the question of identity. Vision is who you want to become.

How long should a mission be?

  • It is a process. The revision should be done at least once a year. Monitor and reflect your goals more than once a year, even if they are for 3-5 years
  • The work on Wikimedia’s mission statement hasn't been done for a long time.
  • There's should be an overlay of different missions of chapters on one page.

Q&A about strategy[edit]

What is the current relation between Chapters and the Foundation when it comes to strategy?

  • There’s a very strong ethos about chapters cleaning things among themselves. The link to the foundation is at the point where it is about money and resources.
  • We are having opposite expectations: Chapters don't want parenting, but at the same time want guidance. WMF doesn't want to be patronizing, but has expectations.
  • Besides money, the most important connection a moral support. Knowing the WMF is there and backing us.

Do we know anything about the foundations next strategic planning process?

  • Yes, we know that we need to do it. There are no details yet. The foundation had brought up a five year strategic plan, now it's time to review it. But we're in the transition phase with ED. We should let the new ED influence our next strategic planning.

Product portfolio analysis: what do we do and what do we want to keep?[edit]

This is an explanatory tool to reassess the programmes you do at your organisation. Questions are:

  • How aligned is the program with strategy
  • How large is the impact
  • How much resources
  • How likely is this to scale: not necessarily in your own country.
  • Is it unique: is your organisation the best to organise that program

Most important: you have to realize that most of the things you do are not the ones you can do. Get rid of the good stuff to do brilliant stuff. There’s one more point about the fun in projects. Ask yourself “Do we really want to do it?” If this is a big yes, do it.

Questions / Comments[edit]

  • Risk is not a factor for portfolio analysis.
  • It's important to do this for your own community. A photo contest, for example, could be good for one organisation, but not for another. We all tend to take things as a model and follow the paths of other organisations.
  • We need a database of ideas. Sometimes we keep the project because we don't have better ideas.
  • We talk a lot about innovation of idea, but at the same time we should talk about innovation of process.
  • The board together with stakeholders has to do this, it's their domain. Staff provides the data for it, doesn't make the decision
  • It's a gut assessment, inherently subjective.
  • Resource intensiveness is a soft limit. If the answer is we need money, there are procedures to get the money to make this happen.

Is anyone using those tools?[edit]

There are several Chapters that have experience with the tools introduced:

  • Some do this in order to answer question during the grants progress.
  • Some worked with the alignment question.
  • Some do planning on a less formal level. They are planning their rare resources: people, money, time on a timeline.
  • Some do evaluation.

Do you prefer at the FDC a portfolio with a lot of projects or only few ?

  • What the FDC is looking for is mainly passion in projects. If you show you really want to do this. But you better check your numbers, they should add up.

Expectations of being board members and how to avoid burning out[edit]

There was a survey in advance of the session. 16 people filled out survey. Their answers were considered in the session.

Does your experience on the board meet your expectations?[edit]

There are several common experiences. Being on the board costs more time than expected, is slightly more difficult. However, a lot of people actually enjoy being a board member.

What did you know about the board before you joined? One member expected it to be difficult. Was in touch with a lot of board members before. Knew the issues they had in the last board. When joined the board, knew the problems were not just gone. Got knowledge about the atmosphere because of personal relations. The topics the board discussed were quite transparent.

What do you enjoy being on the board?[edit]

  • Have influence on a broader scale in the organisation.
  • Move the movement, on a global scale.
  • Skills building, be able to do stuff they are not doing in their daily lives.

What is the worst experience with being a board member?[edit]

  • Too much responsibility. In one case, the responsibility for the whole FDC process depends on one person. In another, being chair during a difficult transition phase was quite stressful.
  • But lack of perceived support of fellow members. Sometimes you want to consult with someone, like potential breach of ethics,… you want to talk to someone.
  • Came up several times, conflict within the board.
  • Lack of clear vision in a transition phase.

Questions / Comments[edit]

  • When you go through a rough period, things tend to add up. Board members and staff do rely on the few people that take things in hand. If you are in that situation, just don't leave them. Handle the situation as a group.
  • We sometimes forget to focus to find ways and paths to follow, to find solutions, to find ideas what to try instead of accusing each other. Do not spend too much time why things are like they are and who's responsible. That is a key thing. Don't even think to find out who is to blame. It's the organisation's fault.

Do you have experience with burnout or know someone in the movement who has?[edit]

Quite a few had experiences with burnout, even of entire burnouts. The word "frustration" keeps coming back. One of the key issues is "too much responsibility", but also they feel too responsible. Another issue is unclarity of roles between the board and board and volunteers. Some people doing too much and others don't do enough.

Questions / Comments[edit]

  • One board member wanted to see and understand everything the organisation was doing and wasn't able to let go of the idea that everything in the organisation was his responsibility. We should be conscientious but distant.
  • This might be most important for organisations with staff: nose in, fingers out. As a board you need to be aware of what is happening, but you don't have the responsibility to really get into these things and find solutions for particular issues.
  • Some laissez faire, trust and knowing enough, you have to find the balance. Trust, when staff is saying they are doing something, they will do it. How staff did it is not the way I would have done it, but I say that's their responsibility.

What do you do to avoid burnout?[edit]

  • Some board members have “office hours”, defined hours for board work. That’s when they write emails and are available for phone calls.
  • Some boards restrict to four meetings a year.
  • Better planned agendas, less items on agendas, more delegation.
  • Some restrict phone calls to one hour.
  • Accept your limits. We try to achieve things and if we do not succeed, we try to do more, quicker. But at some time we have to accept our time, resource is limited. At some point you won't get better.
  • Become proactive. The less you react to everything people are saying, the more effective you’ll become with doing.
  • Appoint the most impatient and most tempered board member as chair. Board meetings become more effective.
  • Have an assistant to the board. That will bring continuity. Also, have someone take the minutes that is not on the board. So everyone can be focussed on the actual discussion.
  • A handful boards have team building or induction meetings.
  • Expectation management reduces frustration.
  • A handbook for new board members. There is one for the Board of Trustees. Some Chapters are also working on such a thing.


Discussion about what people take home from this weekend:

  • New strategies to deal with challenges (by drawing on others’ experience)
  • New perspectives on how to run our organizations
  • Awareness for governance issues
  • Doing evaluation
  • Share learnings more systematically (documentation)

Discussion on needs and priorities:

  • Resource needs:
    • Handbook for boards
    • Portal for sharing learnings
    • Place to develop and share ideas (across chapters)
    • More board training workshops
  • Skill needs:
    • Personal effectiveness / time management
    • Conflict resolution
    • Dealing with COI