Nonprofit Accounting Basics

Term Limits

Note: Articles published before January 1, 2017 may be out of date. We are in the process of updating this content.

Size of Organization: 

The purpose of term limits is to provide rejuvenation to the board, eliminate stagnation, and allow the board to evolve as organizational needs evolve. Term limits enable tired board members to leave with dignity. Term limits force the board to plan for the future and seize opportunities when they present themselves. Constant — but well-timed and structured — turnover ensures the board remains vibrant while respecting organizational memory.

Term limits may seem threatening to founders. A founder often has limitless devotion and attachment to the organization and easily becomes fearful of losing control. Unfortunately, in a nonprofit organization there is no such position as “founder.” This person must either be part of the board — and rely on group decision-making and natural turnover — or perhaps act as the first chief staff person — and accept supervision by the board.

According to BoardSource’s survey, the most common board member term is three years, renewable once or twice. A staggered system allows for necessary continuity.