As volunteers, board members serve on boards without signing employment contracts, but the nonprofit expects members to finish their terms. A board member might resign for many reasons, including new employment which causes a conflict of interest with board service, leaving the area or an ongoing disagreement with the organization's direction.
A board member may even be asked to resign if, for example, he or she misses board meetings. When you do so, take steps to resign from a board position without burning bridges – you may need to work with the same people in the future. There is no one correct board member resignation process and you may need to tailor your approach to your specific circumstances.
1. Speak with Board Leaders About Your Concerns
Clear the air before finalizing your decision to resign. Speak with board leaders about concerns you have regarding the organization's direction or feelings you have about being ineffective or underused as a board member, or other reasons for resigning. The conversation may help change the situation, or may prevent your resignation from taking the full board by surprise.
2. Check the Rules before Resigning from a Board Position
Check the nonprofit's bylaws for guidelines on board resignation. Most will simply ask for a written letter with the resignation's effective date, similar to the instructions in the bylaws of the Advanced Leadership Program of Juneau County, Inc., which read: "Any Director may resign at any time by giving written notice to the President or to the Secretary. The resignation of any Director shall take effect at the time specified in such notice, and, unless otherwise specified therein, the acceptance of such resignation shall not be necessary to make it effective."
3. Apologize and Show You Still Share Interest
Apologize for not being able to follow through on commitments if you've been absent from the board a lot. Show you still share interest in the nonprofit's work by agreeing to complete one more specific task before the resignation takes effect.
4. Write a Letter and Read it at Your Last Board Meeting
Write a letter to the board explaining your position if you are resigning because you strongly disagree with a major organizational decision. Reading the letter aloud at your last board meeting and ask to have it entered into the board minutes. This allows board members absent from the meeting to read your comments, and leaves a record of the debate that may help guide the board of the future.
5. Tell the Board Chair About Your Resignation First
Tell the board chair about your resignation first, then the executive director, then the whole board. If you will be attending one more board meeting, bring cookies or something else of a goodwill nature. Make your last words to the board ones that will be a positive contribution to it and the organization's mission.
Put the specific date of your resignation in writing so it is clear when you are no longer a board member. This protects you if an issue comes up in the future that involves your role as a board member.