Charity Boards – Compelling Reasons to Not Serve


In the last blog post, I covered compelling reasons to serve on boards. Serving on a charity’s Board of Directors is a significant commitment and not everyone is suited for this role. Here are some reasons why individuals might consider not serving on charity boards:

Time Constraints

  1. Inadequate Time: Serving on a board requires a considerable time commitment for meetings, preparation, events, and possibly committee work. Individuals with demanding personal or professional schedules may find it challenging to fulfill these responsibilities.

Conflict of Interest

  1. Conflicting Interests: Potential board members who have conflicts of interest that could impair their judgment or create ethical issues should avoid serving. This includes business relationships, competing affiliations, or personal interests that conflict with the charity’s mission.

Lack of Commitment

  1. Lack of Passion: Individuals who do not have a genuine interest in or passion for the charity’s mission are unlikely to be effective or engaged board members.

Limited Expertise

  1. Insufficient Skills or Experience: If a potential board member lacks the necessary skills or experience to contribute meaningfully to the board’s work, they may not be a good fit. This includes areas such as financial oversight, governance, fundraising, and strategic planning.

Financial Contributions

  1. Inability to Contribute Financially: Many charities expect board members to make personal financial contributions or assist significantly in fundraising. If an individual cannot meet these expectations, they might reconsider their board candidacy.

Governance Challenges

  1. Unwillingness to Govern: Board members must engage in governance and oversight, not manage day-to-day operations. Those unwilling or unable to focus on governance issues might not be suitable for board service.

Accountability Issues

  1. Reluctance to Be Accountable: Serving on a board involves legal and fiduciary responsibilities. Individuals who are unwilling to be held accountable for the charity’s governance and financial health should not serve.

Personal Biases

  1. Strong Personal Agendas: Individuals with strong personal agendas that do not align with the charity’s mission and values may not be effective board members and can create discord within the boards.

Reputation Risk

  1. Reputation Concerns: If an individual’s personal or professional reputation could negatively impact the charity, they should consider stepping down. This includes individuals involved in scandals or legal issues.

Health and Well-being

  1. Health Concerns: Potential board members should consider their health and well-being. If serving on the board could negatively impact their health or if their health could prevent them from fulfilling their duties, it may be best to decline the role.

Cultural Fit

  1. Misalignment with Organizational Culture: If a potential board member’s values and working style do not align with the organizational culture of the charity, it can lead to friction and ineffective governance.
  1. Legal Restrictions: Individuals who are legally barred from serving on a board, such as those with certain criminal convictions, should not serve.

Financial Stability

  1. Personal Financial Instability: If an individual is facing significant personal financial instability, they might not be in a position to contribute financially or focus on the charity’s needs.

By carefully considering these factors, individuals can make informed decisions about whether serving on a charity’s Board of Directors is the right fit for them. This ensures that those who do serve are fully committed and capable of contributing positively to the charity’s mission and governance.