When we started Boardable, we surveyed local nonprofit leaders and asked if they used any software to manage their boards. Only two organizations reported back using some type of board management software.
Most relied on email. Some used enterprise or project management software such as Basecamp—an “off-label” use. Although many leaders recognized the very pains that board software would solve for their organizations, they hadn’t made an investment yet.
On the surface, it makes sense. If you are a small nonprofit with a working board and very limited funds, then any additional spend is hard to make. And if email is working as your de facto board communication tool, you’ll put up with the chaos.
But here’s the bigger truth: Nonprofits understandably struggle to spend money on themselves. They are mission-driven and spend all day, every day thinking about the people they serve. Making their own lives easier sometimes—actually, probably oftentimes—makes nonprofit professionals feel like poor stewards.
Objectively, I can tell you that the more efficiently you serve your people, the further that service—and the dollars that drive it—can go. But it usually doesn’t feel that way, and I get that.
So when should you make an investment in software? How can you get beyond how things feel and see it more objectively?
I believe there are two critical questions here:
Now let’s look at each of these through the lens of your organization.
If your team spends more than 2-3 hours per week on this, then you are probably ready for board management software. There is clear ROI on spending $100 a month to reclaim some of that time. Consider all the tasks that could be offloaded or simplified by software: coordinating schedules and sending invites, sorting through emails, compiling and mailing (or emailing) board books, being board gophers to locate documents and minutes, digging up contact info … the list goes on.
However, if your team only spends 2-3 hours a month, then congratulations, you have a pretty low-maintenance board. Unless you have a strong “yes” to the next question, you might not need software.
There are two basic variables here: time and money. Is your board giving its time and energy to the organization? Do members engage when present and advocate when in the community? Do they support the organization financially?
If your board members already give their time and money at the rate you expect, then you might not need board management software. I recently met with a company that didn’t need Boardable. They met six times a year, sent out physical binders before each meeting, engaged in no digital chatter between meetings … and they were perfectly happy working this way. I agreed that Boardable did not make sense for them.
However, that example is more the exception than the rule. If you think you could get more time and money from your board members with tools that engage them between meetings and enable a stronger sense of community, then it’s likely time invest in board portal software.
The world is awash with software choices, but even choosing the right one can be counterproductive if chosen at the wrong time. If you can’t answer “yes” to the two questions above, then I don’t think your organization should invest in board management software yet.
However, the right software applied to the right problem can be transformative. We’ve seen it with customers who could answer each question with a strong “yes!”
If you also answer “yes,” then I humbly suggest you give Boardable a try with a no-obligation 14-day trial. And please, let us know what you think. We built Boardable specifically for nonprofits, and we continually enhance it based on your feedback.