By Carrie Avery, The Durfee Foundation
As the president of a family foundation that has made the transition to an all third-generation board, I am often asked by colleagues for tips on successfully engaging next gen family members. Here is one: consider offering one-year, renewable board terms to family.
I haven’t done a study on this, but I would guess that many boards have adopted something akin to the traditional model of three-year terms. Three-year terms have the advantage of providing some certainty about board composition, but a three-year commitment can be daunting to a family member who is not well into middle age. At an earlier stage in life, it can be difficult to know where you will be in three years. You could go to grad school far away, get married, start a new job, start another new job, become a parent, or move to a different state or another country. With all that uncertainty, a three-year commitment to anything can seem onerous. Some might decide to forgo the board altogether.
At The Durfee Foundation, we have long had a practice of offering one-year, renewable terms to family trustees. We also have non-family trustees, who are elected for two-year, nonrenewable terms. Some family members renew year after year. Others have taken breaks at different times in their lives when the demands of family or work did not allow board service. Board terms begin in January, and we check in with trustees each fall to see what their plans are for the coming year.