Board books. They are synonymous with many great ideals– tradition, preparation, responsibility, and diligence. Unfortunately, the traditional paper board book has become ineffective in a modern nonprofit environment. There are many reasons that better board books are digital, these are just a few.
The whole point of a board book is to provide the board of directors with all the necessary information for a meeting, right? Over the years, board books have often become bloated, cumbersome reams of paper that contain far too much information for an individual to realistically review before a meeting.
Our board governance expert Kim Donahue talks about “the envelope ripping moment” at the beginning of a board meeting. This is when you hear the sound of board members opening the parcel that was mailed to them days or weeks ago, to review the board book for the first time. Paper board books are often not only too big, but also not in a format that encourages review. Board members are busy people who might do their preparation in ten minute chunks of time while they wait for an appointment or in carpool line. Almost no one will carry a heavy parcel with them everywhere they go!
Nonprofits are increasingly in competition for the talent pool of young professionals. This group of people makes up a large part of the workforce, and will soon be the leadership at nonprofit organizations. When recruiting volunteers or prospective board members from a very tech-savvy population, do you really want to hand them a paper binder? Presenting a modern, forward-thinking face to the public has marketing benefits outside of increased productivity. Professionals of all ages will be impressed with your organization’s proactivity in adapting to new technology and respect your leadership even more.
Imagine there are 20 important pieces of information that a board member needs to review before a meeting. In a digital format, a board administrator can input the information in whatever format is appropriate, and save it to an agenda. That’s it. Any number of people can access it as often as they like, anywhere they have a device. The total time investment from the administrator is a matter of minutes.
Let’s take those same 20 facts and put them in a paper board book. The administrator has to input them into a document. Then, the administrator needs to print them, package them, and distribute them. Now we have two guest attendees invited, and we have to start all over. What was a half hour job has now multiplied into several hours. Those precious hours could be used for something that actually advances goals, instead of standing by the printer.
Certainly, we need to prioritize board meeting preparedness when planning our board books. However, perhaps just as importantly, we need this information to be easily accessible in the future. What were the budget numbers from this quarter last year? What is the name of that new guy on the finance committee? Unless you have this information included in every single paper board book, finding these answers will require lots of digging (most likely by that poor board administrator who has the file). Future accessibility of information should be a prime consideration.
Remember how we had to print out all those board books? Obviously, this is not good for the environment. Even a twenty-page paper board book (many are much bigger), for 20 board members, with a monthly board meeting results in 4,800 pieces of paper in a year! Outside of environmental concerns, there is also a monetary cost. All that paper (and postage) adds up over time into significant money that could be furthering the mission.
Luckily, there are many options for digital “board books” in the form of document sharing, dashboards, discussion forums, and more. You can find various online tools to cover all of these functions, such as Gmail, Slack, Doodle, etc. For a more unified solution, try the board meeting preparedness tools from Boardable for free. Your board will thank you!
Want to know how your nonprofit board of directors and staff can be more productive and efficient through the use of technology? With Boardable’s board software, you can centralize board information and communications, where everything (and everyone) is just a couple of clicks away. Click below to get started with Boardable.