Nonprofit Board Development: Building the Ordinary into the Extraordinary
Are you muddling through your board meetings only partially following the agenda? Are you having more discussions about how parliamentary procedure works than about pertinent matters? Does each of your board members know that they have fiscal and legal duties on behalf of the organization? Do members fail to comment on the financial report because they really don’t understand it?
If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, it’s time to seek opportunities for nonprofit board development. Here’s how your organization will benefit from board of directors training, what areas to cover in board training and where to find opportunities for learning.
Five Benefits of Nonprofit Board Development
Board of directors training is beneficial and enlightening. You might even find that you get hooked on more learning opportunities. However, the insight that board members glean from training is only good when they communicate their findings with the rest of the board.
Create an agenda item for a member who has attended any kind of nonprofit board development training to share information with their fellow board members or ask them to write a report to share with their peers.
Here are five ways that board of directors’ training is sure to have a positive impact on your nonprofit organization:
- Provides legal protection for your organization. Empower your board members with knowledge about what they can and can’t do – and what they should or shouldn’t say. When board members know what they are liable for, they will act as responsible members of the board and help prevent liability issues for the organization and themselves.
- Increases funding. One or more board members may be interested in exploring opportunities to apply for grants. Training classes or workshops on grant writing will substantially improve your chances for securing those grants.
- Improves board meeting productivity. New board members may not be well acquainted with Robert’s Rules of Order or governance principles. Getting training in parliamentary procedure provides opportunities for board members to better understand voting procedures and other important matters.
- Expands the community network. Taking training provides opportunities to network with presenters and others in the community. It’s a chance to tell them about the great work that your organization does and to offer opportunities for service and sponsorship.
- Sparks new ideas. Taking training helps to ignite new ideas that the board may not have thought of on its own.
10 Areas of Nonprofit Board of Directors’ Training
The areas of nonprofit board development training are endless, but there are several areas in which every nonprofit board should be proficient. It’s not necessary for each board member to attend every session, but it’s helpful if at least a few board members attend sessions together.
Look for these 10 areas for nonprofit board of directors’ training to get you started:
- Know the federal, state and local laws regarding nonprofit organizations and the implications for your board.
- Robert’s Rules. There’s a lot to learn about parliamentary procedure. Set up a class or plan for a short discussion on one of the finer points at your regular meetings.
- Your members and benefactors will want some assurance that your board is diverse and represents differing perspectives and points of view.
- Every board member has responsibility for the finances of the organization. It’s important to understand financial reports and to ask questions.
- Nonprofit board members want to raise funds, but may not know how to find the most profitable opportunities. Fundraising training just might take boards to the next level.
- Succession planning. Nonprofit boards typically have a few board members who are very active. It’s good to have a plan for succession in case of an unexpected absence of the president or board chair.
- It seems a little elementary, but good communication skills are a must for nonprofit boards. Getting back to basics will go a long way when communicating in writing, by phone or electronically with members, benefactors and sponsors.
- Grant writing. There are tons of grants waiting to be awarded to nonprofits. However, the competition for them is stiff, so taking a grant-writing workshop could pull you ahead of your competition and win your organization a large grant.
- Strategic planning. Your nonprofit organization should hold a strategic planning meeting every one to two years. Getting some training will help it go more smoothly.
- Conferences or conventions on your organization’s cause. Your board members are the frontline people that represent your organization. They need to be the best sources of information for anyone who asks about the cause. Board members need training to learn about the organization, its members and its needs so they have knowledge that is comprehensive and well-rounded.
Where Do We Find Board of Directors’ Training Opportunities?
Most communities have opportunities for board training within their business districts. Virtually any business professional is a prime candidate to speak to your board about their business and what they can offer to your organization. Lawyers, consultants, bankers, physicians and other business professionals are usually happy to come and deliver a talk.
Online webinars are increasingly becoming good opportunities for short workshops on various topics. You may even consider setting up a laptop and projector so the whole board can view a presentation together either during or outside of the regular board meeting time. Another idea is to allow a short period of 15 minutes or so for a board member to do a mini-training during board meetings.
Large organizations may opt to form a board development committee that is responsible for bringing board development plans and ideas back to the full board for review.
Your local Chamber of Commerce is a good way to meet other people in the area and to do some networking. Invite Chamber members to speak at your events or inquire about making a presentation about your organization as a guest speaker at one of the upcoming Chamber meetings.
The United Way offers regular board development meetings. Foundations that offer grants will also sometimes give presentations on how to successfully apply for their grant monies. Use the knowledge that you gain to apply for other grants.
Nothing to Lose and Much to Gain with Board of Directors’ Training
Once you get your feet wet with nonprofit training, it will be easy to see the benefits that it brings to your cause. There is an infinite selection of topics waiting for board members to explore. Your local community is a prime training ground of opportunities to learn from experts in every area of business. From orientation to resignation, the end product will be a board that is focused on being responsible, profitable, strategic and innovative. The only thing you have left to do is to get started.