8 Types of Annoying Board Members

Organizational Management April 22, 2016

Terry Ibele

By Terry Ibele

Nonprofits are a magical place filled with super passionate, hardworking, and extremely motivated individuals. I've had many opportunities to work with some of these fantastic people and it's been an absolute pleasure.

But, sometimes when you get a bunch of equally passionate people in one room for a Board Meeting, some people's quirks become apparent.

Here's my list of the top 8 most annoying types of Board Members. Hopefully you don't know anyone on your Board that fits into these categories.

Oh, and yes, I drew all these terribly bad drawings.

1. The Ideas Person

ideas This person comes up with a million ideas a minute, but none of them are substantiated with any data. It's like you're paying this person to just think off the top of their head.

"Wouldn't it be great if..."

"How about if..."

"If only we..."

If you were to list the top ten words they use on a daily basis, "if" would be number one. This person is all talk and no walk. They spew ideas out like a smokestack, but you can't remember them ever taking action on any of them.

2. The Rambler

ramble"Short and sweet" is a saying for a reason, but the Rambler has never heard these words.
Somehow they're able to take a "yes" or "no" answer and squeeze out a twenty minute rambling session. You've heard their whole life story, plus the life stories of their family, friends, and even their neighbour's dog's sitter's cousin.

If you've got a Rambler on your board, you know your meetings will never end on time.

3. The Resister

resisterThrow 100 ideas at this person, and they'll shoot down every one of them. What's worse is that the Resister keeps complaining about nothing changing, but they resist change to everything! They're the first to point out that you need more members, or sponsors, or funds, but they never want to try anything new.

No matter what supportive evidence of a great idea, the Resister will always find some worry or flaw (no matter how miniscule) and blow it out of proportion.

What worked in their day is the only way, so good luck convincing this person to try a social media strategy, or to start collecting payments online. If you check their LinkedIn profile, you'll likely find "solid as a rock" as their most valuable skill.

4. The Debbie Downer

debbie downerYou can tell you've got a Debbie Downer on your board, when something's sucking the life out of the room. Present this person with the most exciting news ever and they'll find something just as big to complain about.

"Hey Debbie Downer, we just increased membership by 10%!"

"That's nice, but the plague is still a viable threat to our existence."

No matter what you do, the Debbie Downer brings the mood down. Somehow they've got a knack for turning sunshine and rainbows into a dreary day.

Meeting Minute Checklist

5. The Jargonist

jargonDo you remember taking a course in nonprofit speak? Apparently this person did.

Disruptive, impact, targeted, self-sufficient, alignment, synergy, and stakeholder are just a few of the words that riddle their sentences.

Half the time you can't even figure out what they're saying, but everyone in the room nods because it sounds important.

Is all the nonprofit jargon really necessary? It doesn't seem to do anything but drive everyone nuts!

6. The Grudge Holder

grudgeRemember that topic you thought everyone on the board resolved? The Grudge Holder won't let you forget. Take for instance that one mistake you made to the budget in 2010. That one event where attendance was less than satisfactory. That one time you forgot to count the votes for a motion. The Grudge Holder stores all these beautiful moments in a big bag and can't wait to bring them up on a whim.

It's like this person wants everyone to be stuck in the past. And it doesn't help that they have a PhD in arguing, so prepare for your whole board meeting to be derailed. There's just no winning with this person.

7. The Completely Oblivious

unpreparedYou send out the board meeting notes two weeks in advance.

You remind this person by email to read them.

You put a notice in their calendar to review the notes.

You do everything possible to keep this person informed, yet somehow they still show up to the meeting unprepared. "What notes?" they say. You can't help but shake your head.

On top of all this, they're the first to chime in with their opinion on every subject. If they'd read the notes ahead of time, they'd realize that they don't know really what they're talking about. There's nothing you can do but sigh.

8. The Printer

printerReduce. Reuse. Recycle. Three words this person doesn't have in their vocabulary. The Printer prints off every presentation, email, website page, or facebook conversation, no matter how much paper it takes.

Do they really need to print everything? The slides are already projected onto the screen and someone else is even taking meeting minutes (here's an excellent guide on meeting minutes by the way), so what gives?

They come to every board meeting with such a big stack of papers, you're seriously worried about becoming a death-by-papercut statistic.

If your board could stand to use some improvement
, read our guide for building a more effective, engaged board, or download our meeting minutes checklist. Or maybe you have a great board, in which case you'll relate more to these board characteristics. 

At the end of the day...

Even with their quirks, these people still contribute to the organization in an invaluable way. Their passion, hard work, and dedication goes unmatched and truly makes working in the nonprofit sector rewarding.

Sorry, this blog post is closed for further comments.


  • Jessica Levant:
    Your #1 should not be there. It is vital to have at least one idea person on the team or the whole team sinks into routine. And so that those who are good at making things happen (a different skill set) have something to work with. The premise that a good idea has to be executed by the person who had it has never proved workable. Totally different thinking pattern.
  • Terry Ibele

    Terry Ibele:
    Hi Jessica,

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts, and you're definitely right. It is vital to have someone to generate fresh new ideas on the board. So, perhaps this person isn't all that annoying after all :)

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