Paperless Board Meetings: It’s Time to Ditch the Board Book

To many people, the idea of a board meeting is a little bit idealized. We think of executives in suits reading spreadsheets and making big decisions that will affect the destinies of hundreds of employees. But as a chairman or member of a nonprofit board, you know that meetings are about getting things done and making the right decisions for your cause. One surprising way to make a board more effective is to ditch the traditional board book and go to paperless meetings.

Here are the topics we will cover in the pursuit of going paperless:

There are several benefits of hosting paperless board meetings.

Why should my board meetings go paperless?

In the ideal board meeting, you leave with a plan and a skip in your step. But is everything you walked away with at the meeting on some piece of paper? That means you have to shuffle through a notebook just to find your notes, figures, and company memos.

Keeping track of ideas and tasks becomes a nightmare. Not only is it an inefficient mess, but it’s a waste of paper. Most charitable organizations want to be as efficient AND green as they can, and there are a number of ways this can be easily done.

In this day and age, going paperless is easy. With a little coordination, your board members could leverage digital tools to share notes electronically. So it’s not so much a question of “how” as it is a question of “why.”

There are three primary reasons to host paperless meetings: accessibility, eco-friendliness, and efficiency.

1. It’s greener.

It’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think of going paperless. Obviously, paperless is easier on the environment. As a board member, you understand the challenge of constantly pitching to potential donors. With paperless board meetings, there’s one more good thing you can say about your organization to prospects. Your environmental concern will be more attractive to young professionals who want to be involved in a nonprofit, too!

2. Documents are more accessible. 

Oftentimes, creating a solid executive plan means you need to coordinate ideas and actions live. Having your members running around disconnected and uncoordinated doesn’t help. By documenting your notes and handouts through a document sharing platform like Google Docs or Boardable, you can easily link important ideas, schedule items, and plans across members easily. Paper doesn’t do that.

3. Search for the right information.

With paper, there’s no way to connect the document to the Internet and make quick searches for that budget sheet or committee report. Sure, you could do all the same things manually, but it will slow you down. Increase productivity and save time by going to paperless meetings and doing your data searches digitally.

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4. Interpret your data more effectively.

Along with simpler searches, your paperless documents will also be much easier to analyze using online metrics tools. You’d be surprised how many online tools there are available for free. There are figure converters of all kinds, language tools, translators, audio text readers, and so much more.

If you’re out in the field with a piece of paper, a question, and a potential donor standing right in front of you, all you can do is wing it. Why put yourself in that position, when you can go digital and find the perfect statistic quickly? (RELATED: Board Member Statistics: What They Want to Know )

5. Document meetings using several media.

Of course, not being dependent on paper means you can avail yourself of other means of recording information. If the board is comfortable with audio and video recordings, not only can it improve accountability, but it also helps make sure nothing is ever lost. Going paperless is also easier for remote meeting attendees. Everyone can share the same screen and make the discussion simpler.

6. Save on paper and printing costs.

Then, of course, there are the more tangible expenses of using paper documents for meetings, like, well, PAPER. Not only do you have to print everything, you will also likely have to mail it to board members ahead of the meeting. Before you know it, not only has the meeting preparation cost you lots of time and hassle, you are also wasting precious funding on board books that will likely be recycled as soon as the meeting is over!

Learn what features to look out for in your paperless board meeting software.

Paperless Board Meeting Software: What to Look For

There are lots of considerations when you look for tools to take your board paperless. First and foremost, it has to be a solution that your board members will actually USE. It needs to be user friendly enough for busy professionals of all ages to be able to use quickly and effectively. Let’s go a step further and hope that they even enjoy using the platform! After all, a happy board is an engaged board.

Secondly, of course the solution needs to be affordable. If a major reason you want to shift to paperless meetings is to save time and money on paper, printing, and mailing, then your board book software shouldn’t cost more than your paperless board book software costs. In addition, it needs to be easy enough to use that it actually does save you time as well as the time of everyone who helps with meeting prep.

Learn what features to look out for in your paperless board meeting software.

What is paperless board meeting software?

Nonprofit board meeting software can include a whole range of tools. Most will include meeting preparation tools to build the paperless board book. It will also often include a document storage function to access the board meeting materials.

Many board software platforms will also have meeting follow-up tools. These may be discussion capabilities to further conversations between meetings, as well as ways to record the outcomes of meetings. Next, we will look at some of the most important features to look for when simplifying your paperless board book procedure.

What are the most important features?

In order to replace your traditional paper board book and switch to paperless meetings, your board would benefit from the following features in your board software platform:

  • Board Meeting Documents: Obviously, you want a software feature that prepares the agenda, shares other relevant meeting information, as well as stores minutes from previous meetings for review.
  • Meeting Details: Look for a platform that provides your board members with the who, where, when, and how of every meeting. Attendees should be able to find everything they need to know about the meeting at a glance.
  • Tools for Conducting the Meeting: In addition to preparation, a paperless board meeting software program should provide a tool to take minutes during the meeting, record votes, verify attendance and RSVPs, and facilitate discussions.
  • Between-Meeting Tools: When you aren’t prepping for the next meeting, your paperless board meeting software platform should have a way to track assigned tasks, provide progress metrics on goals, and the ability to run reports on board activities.

Get a free trial and see how Boardable’s paperless board meeting software can empower your board.

Try Boardable for FREE!

Often, the only way to tell if a paperless meeting solution will work for your organization is to try it out. Most platforms offer a free trial. Boardable provides all the features listed above in a free trial, as well as access to the beta version of our Boardable Meetings with Video feature. What’s more, you don’t have to enter a credit card or make any commitment whatsoever.

If your trial expires and you would like to reactivate at a later date, the data you entered will be available upon reactivation. No lost time and effort! Try a free trial of Boardable now and see how your first paperless meeting goes.

There are several best practices that will set your paperless board meetings up for success.

4 Tips for Transitioning to Paperless Board Meetings

It isn’t easy being the person on the board of directors who wants to introduce new ways of doing things. Often, nonprofit boards have a culture of tradition and conventional ways of doing things. That is a great culture for maintaining philanthropy, but it definitely doesn’t encourage innovation and modernizing a nonprofit board. Read on for some tips for getting your board to adopt new ideas.

In order to be successful with introducing a paperless board meeting tool, you need to be prepared. There is a delicacy to introducing something new to a group of people, especially volunteers. You don’t want to overwhelm your board with tools that they aren’t ready for.

Don’t worry. With the following tips, you will be able to introduce a better way of conducting meetings to your team. Once you have everyone’s support, you are well on your way to easier, more convenient meetings!

1. Start with smart board meeting software.

You are going to need a lot of buy-in from the decision makers at your organization to implement a change. Not only do you need their commitment to even try it, but the long-term success of your idea relies on everyone believing it will be worth the investment of energy and time. Be prepared to show concrete ways that your idea will make work lighter, increase the mission impact, or save money.

2. Get buy-in from board members before introducing new software.

Most boards require a certain amount of research and reporting before making even small changes to protocol. Be prepared to introduce your board modernization idea in more than one committee meeting, and at least as many board meetings before it will be implemented.

Additionally, once you start to implement your paperless board meeting tools, expect lots of training and support until everyone is acclimated. Remember, your fellow board members are volunteers with full lives, so learning a new software or procedure will probably take longer than normal.

To host efficient paperless board meetings, you'll want to get buy-in first, show value fast, appoint a tech specialist, offer training, and solicit feedback.

3. Offer group training sessions before your first paperless meeting.

Nothing tanks a new idea faster than inadequate training. Be sure you don’t go to the trouble of researching nonprofit board modernization tools, sell your team on them, then leave everyone floundering with something they don’t know how to implement. You’ll need to plan for the initial switchover to your idea.

Also, don’t neglect the ongoing support some board members need. Whether it is a help desk from your tech provider or FAQ articles, make sure everyone has adequate resources.

4. Collect feedback from board members after a few paperless meetings.

As with any new procedure or tool, it is crucial that you get candid reactions from your stakeholders on how the solution is working for everyone. After using your chosen platform for a few meetings, do a quick check in to see what is working–and what could improve.

This doesn’t need to be a scary exercise, as long as everyone started with the understanding that there may be some bumps along the way. By being transparent and a good listener, you will end up with a better paperless meeting solution for everyone.

Check out our free resources that'll help you as you shift to paperless board meetings.

Conclusion & Free Resources

In conclusion, it’s easy to see that paper is more of a burden than a benefit. All of the advantages we talked about are available to anyone with an Internet connection. Now, when you realize that there are also tools specifically designed to make boardrooms paperless, it’s clear that the only way to go from here is lighter.

Ready to do it? Ready to BLOW UP THE BOARD BOOK?

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Feel free to share this ebook with your team to launch your meeting and board into a paperless future. The time and money your organization saves can make a major difference for your mission.

Download Boardable's free ebook on and learn more about taking innovative approaches to engage your board, such as shifting to paperless meetings.

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