By Latonya Slack
AABLI Head Faculty
Leadership Coach & Strategist
Slack Global Consulting
Q: I’ve decided to leave the board on which I currently serve. What should I do or how should I approach my resignation?
A: There are a few things you should consider before you resign:
1) Be familiar with the organization’s bylaws so that you know how and when to resign. At a minimum, most organizations require written notice to the board chair and CEO. 2) If your reason for leaving is contentious, you may send the notice via mail and email and leave it at that. 3) In most situations, however, you will want to make sure the organization does not suffer in your absence. A little planning will go a long way toward ensuring an amicable departure.
Here are a few ideas to ponder:
Consider timing. If you leave before your term is complete, are you leaving at a time when the organization can “afford” to lose you? Just before the big gala or a major leadership change is probably not a good time. Are there mechanisms in place for recruiting and onboarding new board members? Don’t wait to resign after the nominating committee has made its recommendations for the year. Of course, your personal needs may dictate that you won’t have the luxury to plan a well timed exit, but if you’re considering your departure, how you leave can be just as important as how you join an organization.
Keep your word. Make sure your donations are in, and that the tasks you have agreed to are complete or have been assigned to others. Your fellow directors and the CEO will appreciate you.
Think about your legacy. Have you accomplished the goals you identified when you joined the board? If so, are mechanisms in place to make sure the work will continue if necessary? If not, are there others who might take up the mantle? Identify key relationships that need transitioning so the organization can function without you.
Identify potential replacements. If you know people who might have the capacity and the desire to serve on the board, have conversations with them and recommend them to your nominating committee or board chair. Your former colleagues will appreciate the consideration and your pro-active approach. Do not, however, promise a board seat or insist that your referrals join the board. Letting go means allowing the board to function without you once you’re gone.
Decide if you would like to be involved in some way after you resign. Many organizations have advisory or community boards for donors and others to acknowledge a formal connection that doesn’t rise to the level of board membership but allows for occasional opportunities to support the work. Perhaps you want to volunteer occasionally? Ask your board chair and CEO if there are service opportunities that might be a good fit for you. Of course, it may be better to make a clean break, depending on your circumstances and the organization’s needs.
Ideally, you will want to begin discussing your departure with your board chair and executive director six months to a year in advance. If you hold an office or if you have a major role in the annual fundraiser, the extra planning time allows your replacement to shadow you and learn the ropes before you depart. Be clear about your goals during the transition period and after you resign. Don’t promise to do something if you know your time will be limited or you are truly ready to move on.
Finally, assess where you are now. Ask yourself, what did I learn about board service? How did I have an impact on the community? Did I bring my best self to this experience? Did I demonstrate excellence and bring my “A” game? Why or why not? How can I improve next time? How can I leverage this experience for my next board opportunity? Take some time to reflect on your personal and professional leadership goals as well.
Check with the family for new opportunities. Before you send that note, make sure you check with your AABLI family to identify future opportunities for service. Take time to regroup and energize. Have your passions changed? Are you ready for a different type of board? How will you serve the communities in need? Reevaluate your interests and think about where or how you can best serve. Then pick up the phone and call your AABLI family so you can meet your perfect board match.
This blog is not written by aabli.org or The African American Board Leadership Institute. The author is solely responsible for the content.