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Elevate Your Volunteer Board The Power Of Everboarding

Elevate Your Volunteer Board: The Power of Everboarding 


Training for new members of a volunteer board is essential. But as you go about creating onboarding processes for your new board members, you should also consider another audience who needs training and support: the current board.

Much of what new board members learn during onboarding can serve as a valuable touchpoint and a refresher for current members. This includes going over the board procedures manual and outlining the roles and responsibilities of the board and CEO. Onboarding leads to everboarding – i.e., continuous training and growth for all board members.

Volunteer boards shoulder enormous responsibility. Their job is complex — it requires a deep understanding of the organization’s mission and vision, and what they can do to further both. Members must also be up to date on the technical side of board governance: parliamentary procedure, compliance, fundraising, human resources, DEI and equity, conflicts of interest, cybersecurity, and other issues.

No matter how long members have served, the continuously changing landscape of governance means there is always something new to learn. All board members — new, veteran, and in-between — can learn to do their jobs better with help, support, and training.

Organizations with volunteer boards often say that maintaining their board members’ focus and attention is a major challenge. Cultivating a culture of continuous learning among the board can unify and engage members, strengthen their bonds and governance skills, set the tone for staff, and enhance their organization’s public reputation and standing.

The Costs of Neglecting Everboarding

A rigorous onboarding process naturally leads to a rigorous and engaging everboarding process. Both are equally important to an efficient and cohesive board.

Unfortunately, ongoing and comprehensive training for board members remains lacking for many volunteer boards and organizations. According to a survey of volunteer boards by Green Hasson Janks, only 42 percent of respondents felt their board fully comprehended the organization’s services.

In addition, only 34 percent of respondents said that their board chair had clearly established board responsibilities for new members. Respondents also listed “setting clear expectations for board service” as the second most important thing for a board chair to do.

Confusion about roles and responsibilities can lead to board dysfunction, which can slow down or even halt the board’s ability to move forward.

When board members aren’t constantly learning and acquiring new skills, they put their organization at risk. Keeping up on current issues is a critical part of their decision-making duties. For example, how can board members approve cybersecurity precautions if they don’t have the latest information about threats and prevention? A board voting on a new program or service must have some understanding of the philosophy and practice behind these programs.

Refreshers on best practices for board meetings – guided by a parliamentary procedure such as Robert’s Rules of Order – can keep boards out of trouble when it comes to motions and votes. For example, a vote can be nullified if it’s discovered that the parliamentary procedure was violated or used improperly. This can also lead to frustration and further disengagement among board members.

The board’s fiduciary responsibility is another area that benefits from repeated training and information. Other areas of regulatory compliance should be covered regularly to ensure board members are up to speed on legal requirements, such as potential conflicts of interest, appropriate hiring practices, business and labor laws, and others. If not, they risk bringing unwanted public and legal scrutiny to their organizations.

According to an Amesite blog post, structured onboarding and everboarding were contributing factors for businesses being able to retain employees and reduce expensive turnover. It’s easy to see that this applies to organizations with volunteer board members as well — after all, retention and engagement of board members is just as important in not-for-profit situations.

Board effectiveness reflects the board’s ability to deliver on its mission and achieve its goals. The Board Effectiveness Checklist, organized into key areas, will help your nonprofit board operate even more effectively. Download the checklist now!


Microlearning for Board Members

Absorbing and understanding information – especially large volumes of it – can’t be accomplished in one sitting or one training session.

The science behind how we learn shows that we need “repeated exposure, over time, and in different contexts to be able to store new information in long-term memory,” according to Ottolearn. “Spaced repetition, a proven approach to learning, works by reinforcing content, reminding learners of details, and challenging learners to recall and apply information in different ways.”

Everboarding as a training strategy “recognizes that learning is an ongoing activity that requires multiple exposures to content over time. It acknowledges that a one-time deluge of information is not effective.”

Jen Dewar writes in a LinkedIn Talent Blog post that microlearning is the term used for “breaking down learning material into bite-size pieces of information so learners can, say, complete online training sessions during small pockets of time throughout the day. These short, focused microlearning modules are designed to deliver specific, actionable information that can be easily consumed and quickly applied.”

An online platform is an ideal place to participate in microlearning. A board management platform can deliver ongoing training that is easily accessible to board members and available at their convenience. Training modules can be tailored to meet the needs of individual board members, including their preferred learning styles. Video and audio training recordings can be included along with written material.

Your board management software is the best tool for both onboarding and everboarding. The platform can store information about board history, roles, audits, votes, meeting minutes, financial statements, and other documents, all easily searchable and accessed at a time that suits the learner.

How Technology Can Support Everboarding

Boards are becoming smaller as the nonprofit world is becoming more complex. That means more pressure and responsibilities for volunteer board members, so keeping your board members engaged and unified while pressure increases is going to be a top priority. It will be even more crucial to help them use their governance time efficiently.

Everboarding helps build and maintain leadership skills and knowledge while building trust among new and veteran board members alike. Everboarding combined with microlearning will be especially attractive to younger board members, who are accustomed to learning online through video, audio, and shorter snippets of information. The integration of technology into their governance experience will be something that they expect as a baseline.

And since the pandemic, all board members have become more comfortable and familiar with meeting and learning online. They discovered the convenience and ease of using technology and online tools in their governance roles.

Technology can support everboarding for volunteer board members and make them more efficient and effective. Curious to learn more? Explore how a modern digital solution that supports board training can help you deliver optimal results. BoardEffect is designed specifically for volunteer boards and can support you in helping your board members feel informed. Training resources can be saved to the platform and securely accessed by board members at any time.

Kathleen Vail

Kathleen Vail is a writer and editor in Northern Virginia. She has been covering education and board governance issues at the local and national level for more than 30 years.

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