Ep 27: Confessions of a Terrible Board Member (with Eileen Opatut)

nonprofits are messy

What if a prospective board member looks great “on paper” but doesn’t pan out as the five-star board member you’d expected?

Is it their fault? Yours?

Is it possible to anticipate when it just won’t work?

Eileen Opatut has been an unsuccessful member of several boards and can help shed light on the experience from the board member’s perspective.

Today, Eileen and I try to answer some of these questions and tease out the subtle (and not so subtle) things that you can do to nurture and develop a board member with potential. We also discuss how to recognize when it was never going to work in the first place.

About Eileen Opatut

Eileen Opatut is a TV programming executive turned realtor/developer. She spent 8 years at the helm of The Food Network. Eileen is deeply passionate about a variety of causes and has served on several nonprofit boards. She’s smart, strategic, generous, and takes initiative.

Sounds like the perfect board member, right? And yet, Eileen has never once had a positive board experience.

In this episode:

  • Why being intentional is so critical for finding and bringing on prospective board members.
  • How a good orientation process can make a huge difference.
  • How much board communication is too much? Too little?
  • Characteristics that help somebody be successful at work but are detrimental to board service.
  • What a failed board member thinks you should look for in prospective board members.
  • The value of having non-board members on your board committees.
  • Advice on what to consider if you are approached to be on a board.
  • The importance of interviewing — for both the board prospect and the organization.

Episode Links:

Joan Garry
Follow me

Joan Garry

Widely known as the "Dear Abby" of nonprofit leadership, Joan works with board and staff as a strategic advisor, crisis manager, change agent and strategic planner. Joan also teaches at the University of Pennsylvania with a focus on nonprofit communications and leadership.
Joan Garry
Follow me