Volunteer board resignations run the gamut from expected to disruptive and, sometimes, even a relief. When a board resignation makes the news, there is usually a high-profile conflict behind it, such as the Santa Fe Animal Shelter & Humane Society’s leadership turmoil or mass resignations from the Walton Arts Center.
While such cases are relatively rare, every departure has the potential to slow, complicate or derail your organization’s work. Nonprofit leaders, whether on the board or in key administration positions, must prioritize the development and retention of a healthy board with happy, contributing and engaged board members — while also minimizing the effects of departures.
Fortunately, technology has a role to play in minimizing the effects of board transition — including prevention. By improving communication and efficiency around key responsibilities and capturing institutional knowledge, digital tools support the board, reduce frustration and simplify transition.
Let’s consider how modern, robust board management software can help the nonprofit or mission-driven organization’s board.
Perfecting the Volunteer Board Succession Plan
A solid board succession plan is an investment in a nonprofit’s effectiveness. Just like the business continuity plans that helped prepared companies mitigate the fallout of the pandemic, a board succession plan is worth its weight in digital gold when it comes to reducing disruption.
Consider some of the benefits of an established succession plan:
- Preserving institutional knowledge
- Securing top leadership
- Encouraging productivity
- Reducing the risk of litigation.
With the right resources, boards working with an incomplete or nonexistent succession plan don’t need to start from scratch. Follow best practices and use a checklist to ensure your plan is up to date and covers exactly what it needs to.
Succession planning doesn’t only cover the board. Having a plan for the departure of the executive director or CEO and key administrators and staff — even key volunteers — ensures the work continues no matter who takes it on.
How Technology Can Help with Effective Transitions
The succession plan goes beyond a solitary document; it is a series of efforts the board and staff undertake to support continuity, and can thus include workflows, organization charts, job descriptions and more. When it comes to creating, storing and — most importantly — accessing these resources, modern digital tools are invaluable. By adopting a board management tool with robust functionality, organization leaders can ensure they have what they need to handle transition.
Complete or Enhance the Succession Plan
The struggles of managing documents around board service are legion. Established nonprofits may have many versions of bylaws (both outdated and in draft form), years of reports, strategic documents, templates and more that need to be located whenever the board has a change. Moreover, each individual needs to be confident that the document version they have is the right one for the task at hand. Therefore, effective document management needs to be at the top of every board’s priority list.
Board management portals with intuitive directory structures, ready searchability and clear version management make finding the right document at the right time easy, so organization leaders can spend more time on meaningful work.
Reduce Demands on Outgoing Board Members While Ensuring Transitions Are Smooth
Depending on the nature of a board member’s departure, the clock may have started counting down even before the resignation was tendered, so those responsible for ensuring continuity must work quickly. Departing board members may be taking institutional knowledge with them, but that knowledge doesn’t have to be irreplaceable or lost.
Use exit surveys to capture what you need to know from the board member, and take the opportunity to update any documents related to the responsibilities of their specific role, as well as the roles of the remaining board positions.
Simplify Onboarding New Board Members
The process of bringing a new board member into the fold is exciting but also stressful — for the existing board, association staff and, of course, the new director themselves. Your centralized information hub can include a walkthrough of onboarding tasks, including resources about the organization, job or role descriptions, easy access to the updated strategic plan, goal progress reports and more. As with departures, a built-in survey tool can gather information on the strengths and experiences the new board member has, including possibly unearthing some valuable unknown skills.
By creating an electronic checklist or hub that offers easy access to these resources, the director can help speed their own onboarding process, setting up a positive, confident initial board experience.
Support Effective Board Collaboration
Going forward, prioritize the creation of an environment where current board members feel valued and empowered while their time is used effectively. By using tools that simplify board discussion and decision-making, each board member can be heard and make their mark without an undue use of time.
By providing tools to create, edit and use board agendas and supporting materials easily, a nonprofit creates an environment that focuses on governance, not minutiae. And busy directors can engage with the materials on multiple, secure devices, at the right time for them around other commitments.
Comings and goings create weak spots for organizations when it comes to preserving security. No matter the size, nonprofits and other nontraditional targets have become targets for cyberattacks, such as this recent attack on Hospital Sisters Health Systems, while human error and carelessness can cause other kinds of exposure.
By partnering with a vendor for the right tools, including the board management solution, nonprofits and mission-driven organizations of any size can benefit from enterprise-level security advancements.
Moving Forward with a Board Management Solution
Board succession planning is a powerful process that pays off exponentially for the time an organization puts into it. Whether a board member departure is expected or unexpected, having a plan in place and a board management solution that simplifies it minimizes the time a board needs to find its new footing.
We at Diligent understand that ensuring volunteer board continuity is paramount, and we have designed BoardEffect to be the board management solution to speed transition and help the board stay focused on its goals. Let us know how we can help your board.