Should You Keep Someone On Your Nonprofit Board For Their Name?

As we have been promoting the eBook (and now soft cover version on Amazon), How You Can Engage New Board Members, a few questions have surfaced as trends across nonprofits. One such issue is whether to keep – even if it is a name that is well known?Rolling Out the Red Carpet

If you are still reading this article, then this story may sound familiar to you. There is someone on your advisory council or, serving as a trustee, who is influential in the community, has high name recognition and/or is known as a philanthropist who makes organization transformative gifts (although she has not yet offered that level of support for your nonprofit). We’ll call her Claire Newman. While Claire agreed join, it was as a favor to someone and she never comes to meetings or responds to general emails. Maybe, you hope, she will give a bit of help for a specific event or agree to provide some publicity when asked, but she is rarely asked. Asking her might scare her off.

Should you keep this person on your board? Well, you can make a pro/con list.


  • People like to be associated with Claire and may join the board to be in her company – both literally and figuratively
  • Others will come to events hoping to see and connect with her
  • She does offer some minimal support
  • She adds prestige to your nonprofit, which at times, has brought other people of that ilk


  • Adjusting advisory or board expectations for one member sets a bad precedent
  • Anyone who agreed to support your organization because of Claire will probably come on board and then leave the board too quickly to have any impact
  • That spot could be filled with someone who is more committed to the nonprofit
  • External expectations include that you receive a huge value from this person and people will think you need less funding because Claire Newman is on your board!

Be honest with yourself. If she has not given time or money in her first couple of years on the board, largely because she was never asked, it is unlikely that she feels passionate about your nonprofit

Or, you can be realistic. Can you create a plan to engage her on a deeper level? Will you be able to remind her of why she agreed to support your nonprofit in the first place? Do you understand what you didn’t do to engage her when she initially became involved and what can be done now to repair the connection?

If you can see a way to move forward with Claire Newman the philanthropist, as opposed to Claire Newman the name, it is worth retaining the relationship. Otherwise, she is not helpful to you, your organization or to its board. A name is only a name, and promoting your connection with someone who is not promoting their connection with you, is wasting everyone’s time.