Well, for many Board members, “fading away” means unceremoniously dropping them off the Board. That’s why former Board members are often a trouble spot for organizations—someone goes from being “in the know” to “out in the cold.” The result: a one time key member—and often still influential one—becomes disenfranchised.
But it doesn’t have to be that way.
One thing many organizations do is create a separate “advisory board” of past Board members or past chairs. A simple meeting a few times a year with the lead staff executive and current chair can keep the group informed enough to feel like their input matters.
A more formal role is to create an Emeritus Board seat. These seats are typically reserved for Board members who performed exceptionally well while on the Board. If you’re considering this option, be sure to have some hard and fast rules, such as:
- Limiting the number of Emeritus Directors from each class
- Limiting the total number of Emeritus Directors that can serve at one time
- Spelling whether Emeritus Directors can vote or count towards quorum (I vote no on both of these)
- Establishing what information they do and don’t receive
One last place that many organizations involve former Board members is on the nominating committee. I understand the rational of this, but be sure to have some limits on this one. Make sure your nominating committee reflects your organization’s future, not its past.