Sitting on a committee is a big responsibility. Being asked to put yourself in that position, though, can feel like an honour, and if you’re like most of us you’ll do everything you can to rise to the expectations. But sometimes it doesn’t work out - and that’s ok. Maybe your life outside the organisation has become more important. Maybe you disagree with the organisation’s choices.

There are innumerable reasons why a member might step down, and if it’s done properly the board can recover quickly and easily. But how, you ask? And what if someone steps down unexpectedly? Let’s have a look at a few ways your committee can get ahead of resignations and ensure they’re handled smoothly.


Every board member is a human. While it can be easy to get wrapped up in politics, it’s important to remember that if someone is planning to resign, they will have a reason. Sometimes that reason is as simple as not having the time to give the committee the attention it needs, and that can’t be helped, but often conflicts over personalities or the direction of the organisation can be resolved through discussion.

Acknowledging these issues and discussing them frankly can hedge off the issue before it becomes irreconcilable and someone quits in a huff. Encouraging a culture of openness and honesty will help those who doubt themselves or the organisation’s direction speak up, and also keeps bigger personalities from steamrolling over what they might think of a “smaller” problems. If the board is willing to listen to these kinds of problems and action solutions to them, their member retention rate will skyrocket, as will their reputation within their community.


Typically, board members are under no obligation to communicate their plans to resign ahead of time. They are within their rights to announce an immediate resignation at a meeting, or in a memo, or anywhere. Do you think your board would know what to do if that happened?

It’s easy when a member resigns on good terms, but when it’s sudden or negative in any way it may be tough to handle. Having policies in place to direct action is a concrete way to prepare yourself for this. 

Think of all the aspects of your organisation this member had access to. Databases, websites, emails, etc. Anything that’s password-protected will need to have its passwords changed. Email addresses will need to be updated or have a redirect set up. Official documents and any other sensitive information will need to be returned to the board as soon as possible. Everything, down to your letterhead, or online staff profiles on your website, will need to be updated.

A good place to start when organising these policies is your board’s handover procedure. Have a look through it and see what would normally happen with a planned handover and update it with actions to take in a more urgent scenario.

If your board doesn’t yet have these procedures in place, consider adding them to the agenda of your next meeting. They’re important, and will help a lot if something unexpected happens.