Exit interviews for board members

Many of you have board members whose terms are ending. As some board members leave, you might feel truly bereft. With others, you might be fighting the urge to run down the street screaming “free at last, free at last.” Regardless of how you feel about the board member who is leaving, an exit interview is invaluable.

Who should do the exit interview? You will want a current board member and the Executive Director/CEO. The board member might be the chair of the board or the chair of the governance/nominating committee. The reason you want two people, one from staff and one from board, is that based on what you learn from the interview, changes might need to be made from the governance or the program side. Also, if promises are made for future contributions, either intellectual or monetary, you will want some depth of institutional memory.

What should you ask in the interview? Here are some sample questions:
What did you enjoy most about your board service?
What did you enjoy least?
Did you feel prepared to be a board member? If not, what could we do better?
Were your talents used effectively?
For the executive director to ask, “How can I do a better job?”
For the board person, “How can I be more effective?”
What would you like your involvement to be in the future with our organization?
If there is only one thing we could call you to do in the future, what would it be?

Ann Mack, the Executive director of Trailnet http://www.trailnet.org and I sat down to do an exit interview with a 7 figure donor. He had something of a rough ride with the organization because his enormous donation did not produce the expected results. There was a change of leadership during his board tenure and Ann came on. This gentleman said that he really wanted a rest from Trailnet. I ultimately asked the question, “If there is only one thing we could call you about, what would it be?” He then started to talk about his vision of the future and his passion for our work. He said not to call him for 6 months. Ann told him about a project that might be of interest, and he suggested that he emphatically stated that he would not get involved for 6 weeks. This was several weeks before Christmas, and I said, “So you are saying, we shouldn’t call you on Christmas day?” He said, “Actually, my relatives are coming over. Christmas Day would be fine.”

You will leave, as we did, with a sense of closure and valuable knowledge for both future involvement and better governance practices.

It isn’t too early to plan your board training for 2010. To learn more about scheduling a board retreat with Carol, click here, http://www.carolweisman.com/newsite/governance/retreats.htm or call 314 863 4422 or e-mail at carol@BoardBuilders.com.



  1. Foraje said

    I like the idea of talking to employees before they make the decision to leave, but I’m not sure how to do that. That is a lot of conversations, even if you do narrow it down to your top talent.

    I’m also curious how people use exit interview data. I work for a large organization and even if I just focused on exempt employees in North America – it’s still a lot. How do I make an impact with the data I gather? Also, what is the best way to gather the data? I’m thinking of switching us from a manual form to surveymonkey…

    What do you think?

  2. […] Weisman’s Exit Interview for Board Members and Avoiding the Pitfalls [in Recruiting Board […]

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