Charities and nonprofits are community trusts and as such should not be seen as “owned” or “operated” by any individual or group of individuals other than the members / community stakeholders who are passionate about the mission of the organization. As such, volunteer board directors should not view their role as permanent, although their interest in the wellbeing of the organization should be long-term in nature.
Experience has shown that organizations that do not have term limits imposed on board members may have long-serving directors who are no longer contributing effectively and may in fact be a negative influence on the board culture and organizational decision-making. Although term limits may prevent an effective director from continuing to serve, the larger risk facing organizations is when a lack of term limits results in the continued tenure of long-serving, influential directors who are no longer contributing positively to the organization or board. In fact, recent research shows that after 8 to 9 years on a board, a director is no longer adding value, and has likely become a detriment to the board. 1
The standard allows for a certain number of board members to exceed the 9-year term limit. The rationale behind this flexibility in the standard is the recognition that some organizations face contextual constraints such as only having access to a small volunteer pool, the need to fill officer positions, and/or the need for particular skills.
Standards Reference Guide