Checklist: Dissent in the boardroom

By governance expert Judith Rich

Over the years, many charities have appointed their volunteers to the board, giving them full voting power and all other rights associated with trusteeship.

This stemmed from the belief that the board's decisions would be better informed by having access to knowledge of the current thinking among the charities' volunteer forces.

While no one would ever argue that first-hand knowledge is not valuable, in some cases such appointments have led to open revolt because volunteers have felt the charity's strategies did not fall within their thinking.

Some of these dissenters stated after board meetings that they were unhappy with decisions they had consented to during the meetings.

Chairs must act at once should such dissent arise in the boardroom. They must make sure every trustee has the opportunity to put forward a view. They must also ensure that the reason for the eventual decision is given openly, and that the entire board understands why it has been reached and takes collegiate responsibility for it.

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