Whether the world enters into a recession or not, it’s clear that organizations of all types face leaner times and operating conditions. Grants and funding are harder to qualify for and at a lower amount, donations are reduced in frequency and size, and assets provide a lower return to fund the mission.
It is more important than ever that nonprofit boards operate in the most productive and effective way possible to lead their organizations through these challenging times. At Boardable, we work with thousands of nonprofit boards across a diverse range of industries. From associations to health care, education to foundations, high-performing boards share a multitude of common traits. In this article, we share three of these common traits as a useful guide for your board in 2023.
Get the most out of nonprofit board meetings
A good board meeting is essential to operating a productive board, especially one mainly comprised of volunteers. The board meeting is the vehicle where a board conducts the majority of business, member interactions, and decision-making. The work and preparation needed to perform at your best starts a long time before the meeting day itself. Full attention should be given to the whole meeting lifecycle. This includes scheduling meeting dates months in advance, managing both virtual and hybrid meetings, and distributing post-meeting actions and minutes.
The board meeting should have a well-designed agenda with input from all stakeholders. Agenda item topics should be balanced between backward-looking reporting and forward-looking planning. The result should be an agenda that supports sessions where decisions are made and performance is reported. The agenda and board materials should be published at least five days before the meeting date, with late or updated information distributed in a concise manner, so that board members have clear information and sufficient time for thorough preparation. This includes any necessary discussions, questions, and clarifications needed before the meeting convenes.
Board meetings that are conducted fully remotely require video conferencing that supports audio and visual communication between meeting participants, access to all meeting content including the agenda and board book, and the ability to follow the meeting flow seamlessly. Hybrid meetings require the same protocol, whether in the room physically or virtually.
Proper governance keeps nonprofit boards accountable and effective
Board members informed viewpoints are only as up-to-date as the information they are provided. Board books age as soon as they are published, and cloud storage typically contains copies of important documents which become obsolete as soon as source information changes. The best decisions cannot be made if members are forming their opinions on outdated documents or have insufficient time to process all of the relevant information.
Providing board members access to real-time data can significantly enhance their ability to remain informed all year round and, therefore, to be in the best position to advise and direct when called upon. Whatever tools and technology you use to provide information to the board, they should support ‘push’ and ‘pull’. The push is the cycle of how the organization provides information to board members on a regular basis.
This includes board books and other meeting materials, reports, and leadership updates. The pull is when a board member seeks information outside of the push cycle. This could entail deeper reading on a particular topic or initiative, or asking for an update on a current board matter. Information should be presented in a recognizable and digestible format with an easy method for the member to raise their hand to ask questions or initiate discussions.
Invest in proven tech that saves you money in the long run
The tech you use to support board members can be the difference between them actively participating or frustrated disengagement due to lost information and board materials. It is key to remember that, typically, volunteer board members can make a very small percentage of their time available to support your organization’s mission.
A common cause of frustrated disengagement includes using different systems for different purposes – video conferencing for remote meetings, email for distributing reports and communicating updates, cloud storage for board governance, and questions/surveys in feedback management platforms. The clear solution is centralizing everything in one system that has purpose-built features and is easy to navigate.
Investing in the right tech delivers tangible and intangible returns. Tangible returns could include canceling subscriptions that board members won’t use outside of their board duties and a reduction of internal costs in running and supporting board operations. Intangible returns can be even greater. A board professional who is engaged with your board performance tool is more informed, experiences more thorough collaboration, and makes better decisions.