Sabbaticals for Board Members

I was wondering if anyone had any experience with sabbaticals for nonprofit board members.

My nonprofit board currently has a director who has become EXTREMELY busy with both his work & personal lives; therefore, he hasn’t been able to give his time to our mission. However, his work & family load should decrease in about a year or so. He doesn’t want to leave the board, but he would like to take some time off - about a year.

I’d love your feedback on if a board member sabbatical is something we should implement into our bylaws & policy book.

Would it work for our nonprofit & for the board director requesting the sabbatical?
Or should the director just step down from the board & rejoin at a later time?

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What a great question! I am interested to hear from others on this, as it is not something I’ve heard of for board members. My first instinct is to say it is the cleanest for the board member to step down and rejoin, and have that not count against a term limit. Mostly because 1) you need a fully functioning board to help lead the organization and if the person is taking a seat on the board that could otherwise be filled, they are doing the organization a disservice and 2) if they are still listed as a board member they are legally responsible for the organization - and if they aren’t voting or taking part in the work of being a steward of the organization it would be pretty hard (for me to imagine) wanting to still have that legal responsibility.

I’d maybe frame it as a leave of absence of stepping away for a while, allowing you to fill the position in the interim (or expand the board when they are ready to come back). You may need to make a bylaw change to allow for the board to make an exception to any term limits/lengths for this person when they are ready to re-engage.

BUT so curious for others that have expertise or experience in this area!

Thanks for the suggestions, Shelby.

We are leaning toward just having him step off the board for the time being. BUT…I’m still interested in other’s thoughts & suggestions on a board sabbatical.