Keep the Governing Vision Forward-Thinking

Posted in board of directors / board positions

Keep the Governing Vision Forward-Thinking

Spring is in the air and in my world that brings all the prep and planning for the annual meeting and new board members joining the team. Last week I shared some thoughts about board terms, the set length of time a volunteer holds a position as a board member before having to run for re-election. We considered 2 years as a sort of sweet spot for not too long and not too short.

Ideas are not unique if they are repeated year after year.

The other half of the board term conversation is to determine the total number of a terms a board member can hold consecutively. In other words, how many of those 2-year terms in a row feel right for the organization. For example, it might be a 2-year term x 2 consecutive for 4 years total. Or a 2-year term x 3 consecutive for 6 years total.

This decision is very similar to determining term length, but instead of considering if board members are strong or weak in the role, it helps to think about how long a non-profit wants to have a particular voice at the board table.

When a non-profit is past it’s early ‘just getting started’ days, it will usually have a board that is made up of members who come from the key stakeholder categories the non-profit serves. For example, a humane society might have pet owners, animal welfare advocates, etc. A youth sport league might have parents, coaches, and older athletes. Each one of those possible board members will have their own unique ideas for governing the organization.

When put together, all the unique ideas will create a collective governing vision for the non-profit. But if that collective vision is simply repeated year after year, the uniqueness is lost.

Extend the policy review conversation.

In last week’s post, we talked about having a policy review conversation (nothing long, a simple agenda item) at the two board meetings prior to the AGM. When discussing the length of a board term, it is also a wise decision to discuss the total number of terms a board member can hold. Both pieces are equally important in a policy review conversation.

Give others a chance to participate.

The number of consecutive terms a board member can hold can influence the governing vision for the organization. Sometimes that influence is positive, if the board is a forward-thinking group willing to grow and try new ideas. Sometimes, though, that influence is negative and board members who have held their position for many years in a row will become too comfortable doing what they’ve always done and never explore new ideas.

When considering how many consecutive terms a board member can hold, it helps to consider when the non-profit would like new voices and new ideas at the board table to ensure it stays relevant and forward-thinking.

How to get started.

Follow the format we discussed last week. Have an initial discussion, check with former board members for their input, and then have a final discussion a month later, after board members have had time to think about their preferences. That break between meetings will help board members spend a little more time really thinking of what will work best for them and for the organization.

What will you choose?

What are the total number of consecutive terms a board member can hold at your non-profit? Please use the form on the right side of the page to let me know. If you have questions, and I love questions, I want to know that too!


Hi, I'm Christie Saas, current Executive Director, past board member, and non-profit volunteer. I remember well, those early years when I lacked the training, the confidence, and the work-life balance to focus on becoming the best non-profit leader I could be.

Fast-forward past many bumps in the road, lessons learned, and you’ll find me still in the trenches, but a little wiser, a little calmer, and a whole lot happier. I love my work and I want to help you love yours too.

I created so non-profit leaders never need to feel alone. I’m here to help. If you’re a brand-new non-profit leader, or a little more seasoned, someone who’s looking to make a meaningful contribution and still have time for a full life away from the job, you’re in the right place.

© Christie Saas 2023 All Rights Reserved

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