How to Improve Board Performance for Your Nonprofit
Every nonprofit board does its best work when it has the right people, the right processes and the right tools. There is one specific tool that helps boards with essentially every process that nonprofit boards perform — a board portal. A board portal is an online platform that helps boards do their work in the most efficient and secure ways.
Technological advances are causing security issues for all organizations, including nonprofit boards. Nonprofit board directors are usually volunteers. Before accepting a position on a nonprofit board, individuals need to be aware that their duties and responsibilities will start to more closely resemble those of for-profit corporate boards and be as prepared as they can be to handle them. Board portals provide the security that’s necessary for nonprofit boards to protect their members, donors and stakeholders. Additionally, portals automate and organize much of a nonprofit board member’s work, which helps them improve their board performance in every area.
Board Portals: An Essential Tool for Improved Board Performance
The most significant area where nonprofit board members can make improvement is increasing their knowledge of cyber risks, cybersecurity and data privacy laws. Nonprofit boards often lack the funds for strong technical expertise and security measures to protect sensitive member and donor information. Board portals, such as those provided by BoardEffect, enable the robust security that’s necessary to protect today’s board members from undue and unexpected liabilities.
The 2015 cyberattack of the National Center for Charitable Statistics offers a prime example of the need for nonprofits to protect personally identifiable information with the highest level of security. Cybercriminals were able to access the organization’s annual reports to the IRS. No matter how large or how small a nonprofit is, cybersecurity is a top priority. Board portals provide nonprofits with many other benefits as well.
Fundraising is a top priority for nonprofit organizations. It’s the one activity they spend most of their time on. Board portals streamline much of the work associated with fundraising. The portal helps to track the cycle of fundraising events so that boards can make financial projections. The portal also stores information about donor prospects and past donors, allowing board directors to better understand when it’s the best time to make a repeat call for donations. Boards can use the portal to accept donations, match donations and help manage their social giving.
Much of the board’s work happens in committees. The portal allows boards to organize and monitor their committee work. They can even conduct board meetings online if their bylaws allow it.
Board portals may have unlimited potential for storing board documents. This puts the board’s bylaws, policies, board agendas, board minutes, financial reports, annual reports and other information right at the board’s fingertips any time of day or night.
Board portals offer boards many other features that increase efficiency, such as the ability to use e-signatures and to translate documents into other languages.
First Year of Board Service Sets Expectations for Continuing Improvement
Nonprofit boards can set their expectations for continuing improvement starting at the board orientation. The orientation is the time to educate new board members about the history and importance of the organization’s mission. This is a crucial step where board members will learn how to align their own skills, the skills of the rest of the board and available resources with the mission. This is the time to emphasize the board’s strategies and goals and how they’ve tied them to the mission.
Another highly important task for all board directors is to make sure that they are clear on the differences between their roles and the roles of the executive director so that neither party oversteps the roles of the others. From the start, veteran board members should encourage new board members to become well-acquainted with their Board Handbook, which should make clear that the board expects all board members to improve their knowledge and expertise in overseeing the planning for the nonprofit. Board members should learn where to find their Board Handbook in the board portal. They should also receive training on how to find the board meeting schedule, financial reports, donor information and program plans.
Building a Strategic Partnership With the Executive Director
Neither the board nor the executive director can manage a nonprofit organization on their own. While each should know and understand their respective duties and responsibilities, it’s important for them to have a good working relationship with one another. Boards improve their own performance when they can rely on their executive director to tend to managerial duties.
Nonprofit boards may consider taking the executive director’s orientation process slowly. Once the person gets moving, they’ll fall into the role more quickly. Many boards find it helpful to form a transition committee so that both parties are clear on the roles and the transition goes as smoothly as possible.
From the start, the board should give a new executive director a learning plan and an action plan for the first 30, 60 and 90 days. Boards should make sure that the executive director is clear on the plan for the first year, as well as the long-range plans. Board members should clarify the leadership agenda for a transitioning executive director and set milestones for each identified priority. The board should present the executive director with their vision and work together dynamically to identify gaps in capacity and organizational ability that may hinder progress. Board members are responsible to hold the executive director accountable for meeting performance benchmarks and evaluating managerial performance objectively.
Performing Annual Board Self-Evaluations
Board self-evaluations are part of best practices for good governance. Nonprofit board members should be clear about their job descriptions, roles and responsibilities and be aware that they will be measuring their own performances based on their performance annually. It’s also important for the board to assess its performance as a whole. In both cases, they should be cognizant that they’ll be measuring their performance based on the explicit goals and strategies they tied to achieving their mission. Improving board performance should be a topic that board members discuss all year long, not just around evaluation time.
Pursuing Board Development
Whether nonprofit board directors have experience or not, they should continue to learn more about their service to the board and work toward enhancing their skills and abilities. This usually entails taking workshops or seminars to learn more about various aspects of nonprofit board leadership.
Nonprofit boards should continually strive to empower themselves and each other to become active ambassadors for the nonprofit’s mission, just as a product manufacturer’s salespeople learn to become brand ambassadors for their companies. Nonprofit board directors are primarily the corporation’s overseers. That responsibility includes learning to become powerful spokespeople and connectors who feel capable of introducing the organization to new audiences at every opportunity.