March 18, 2018

Get Your Life Back: Establish Board Office Hours

a parent with a childWhy do your board members call you evenings and weekends?* Step into their lives for a minute. Since most board members work, it’s natural that they focus on their volunteer activities during non-working hours. Weekends and evenings are times to tend to life’s essentials, be present with our families, fill our brains with new ideas, and let existing ones settle into new patterns. If people call you regularly on weekends and evenings for non-emergency matters, you’ve failed this aspect of self-care, setting healthy professional boundaries.

Yes, the board’s your boss. You want to be available, but not at the cost of your life balance. Your downtime improves your health. It enhances the well-being of your organization. In turn, your board’s downtime refreshes their lives.

The Office Hours Concept

Therefore, establish early in your leadership “office hours.” Reenforce and inform others of these hours, as necessary. For instance, note that you’re both busy during board member orientations. Share that you’ve found several best times to connect with members between meetings. Then list your specific hours. Ask for their best time amongst these. Remind them that they can always call and leave a message or send an email or text, but you’ll return the call during their preferred times unless it’s an emergency.

If your board members attended college, they are used to the concept of office hours. To get your board to use them, “tell ’em early and tell ’em often.”

Once you establish how to set office hours early, how might you get them to work? Reserve the hours to return messages. Batch your responses to emails, calls, and texts for those hours. Make them during those times. Consistently offer them call-back times. It’s a little like establishing a path in the woods. Use the trail often, and you’ll knock back the grass and shrub and create new habits.

Long-Term Office Hour Impacts

Establishing office hours doesn’t mean you’ll never have a conversation during the evening or weekends; those conversations will be rare. If you don’t create office hours for yourself, establish them for your organization. If not you, who else will do the deep thinking and capture insights you need and that you get when you focus on other things for your nonprofit?

To keep your staff healthy and happy, encourage them to establish office hours for their fellow staff members and even for you. Time, not money, is the resource in the shortest supply at successful nonprofits.

For more answers, check out this Nonprofit CEO Library.

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Karen Eber Davis

Karen Eber Davis provides customized advising and coaching around nonprofit strategy and board development. People leaders hire her to bring clarity to sticky situations, break through barriers that seem insurmountable, and align people for better futures. She is the author of 7 Nonprofit Income Streams and Let's Raise Nonprofit Millions Together.


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