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Technology For Nonprofit Transformation

Technology Helps Volunteer Boards with Transformation


The job of the volunteer board chair is a rewarding one, bringing the opportunity to work with others to create tangible progress for their organization. Yet it also comes with a heavy dose of responsibility, and it is becoming increasingly complex. Chairs are charged with steering their board and organization through the transformation of nonprofits and charity organizations.

With changes come opportunities but also challenges and risk. It can seem overwhelming to tackle all of this, but fortunately, there is technology available to support board chairs and members in an age of transformation. Tools such as board management software make it easier for boards to tackle additional risks and responsibilities as your board undergoes transformation.

Smaller Boards, More Responsibility

The average board size has decreased by more than 20 percent in the past 20 years, according to Leading with Intent: A National Index of Nonprofit Board Practices. Smaller boards can mean closer ties among board members and increased satisfaction for members. These boards are more agile and can make decisions quickly when necessary. However, the smaller size means each member has more responsibility and accountability. Members may need to take on several roles. New members must rapidly adapt and be ready to hit the ground running.

Board management software assists small boards by helping to automate workflows and administrative tasks such as sending out meeting reminders or posting meeting minutes. It can facilitate online training for board members taking on new roles or upskilling, and for onboarding of new members to make sure they are set up for success.

With all the changes to boards, it’s useful to assess the skills of current board members, to inform training and to alert the board to the qualities and attributes they should look for in upcoming board candidates.

Communication and Collaboration

Through the aid of board management software with integrated video conferencing capability, board members no longer need to be in the same geographic area or time zones as their organizations or fellow board members. Organizations now can tap the expertise of people across the country and globally. Solutions to support your board also help facilitate hybrid and online meetings by making agendas, meeting minutes, and online notes available to board members.

Board members also don’t need to meet face-to-face to be able to collaborate, communicate and build trust and respect with each other and the organization leaders. Board management software offers collaboration tools to make sure all board members, no matter where they are, can work together. It supports hybrid and online meetings by making agendas, meeting minutes, and online notes available to board members. Communications in the form of email, texts, and instant messages to board members are securely stored and accessible to all members any time they need. All board meeting materials and key documents should be able to be found quickly and easily through keyword searches.

Making key meeting and business information easily accessible means that board members spend less time searching and getting up to speed and more time on essential discussions and decisions. They can come better prepared to board meetings and have the right information to aid decision-making.

It builds trust by delivering a single source of truth while ensuring that members get the same information in the same format and at the same time, so no members feel left out or end up looking at the wrong version.

Onboarding for New Members

With all the transformation that’s taking place across volunteer boards, you want to ensure that new members understand the complexity of their new roles and can be effective decision makers early in their tenure. New member onboarding should outline conflict of interest rules, social media use expectations, and other potential reputational security measures that your organization requires. Spelling out these rules and expectations will help new board members understand their role in risk mitigation for the organization.

Use your board management software to offer customized training modules so new members can learn about their new roles at their convenience. For current board members, the technology can be used to poll or survey them to assess knowledge gaps, as well as offering them training opportunities to refresh their own knowledge or to upskill.

Managing Risk

Risks come in many forms for nonprofits organizations. Cybersecurity is at the top of the list of major risks. The threat increases daily as cyber criminals find new and different ways to steal or hold data hostage for ransom.

Other risks, financial and reputational, are major challenges for boards and organizational leaders. Board management software offers volunteer boards ways to predict, assess, and manage risks to their organization. Training on how to manage and mitigate risk is essential for volunteer board members who may have no background in this arena. Risk management plans should be developed and reviewed frequently and include input from the organization’s legal counsel.

The plan should include contingencies outlining the procedures to follow in a security breach or other emergencies. Everyone involved with the organization should have access to the latest version of the cyber response plan. Board management software can securely store these plan and key contact information should an incident occur, easily searchable to find swiftly.

Staying Ahead of Change

Continuing changes and shifts require that volunteer board members have access to ongoing training. They must get up to speed quickly on new regulations and requirements, as well as shifts in fiduciary responsibilities. Board management software can help provide ongoing customized training for board members in the form of video, audio, and other training modules with flexible training delivered either one-on-one or in groups to facilitate discussion.

Nonprofit and charity organizations face increasing calls for transparency from donors, funding partners, and volunteers. Organizations with proven track record on ESG efforts and goals are more likely to be deemed trust-worthy by their community and the public at large. Board management software can help boards and organizations publicize their ESG programs and other information, meeting transparency expectations and other goals.

Technology Supports Success

Volunteer board members are dedicated to the mission and vision of their organization, even as their work as a governance team grows in difficulty and complexity. Fortunately, technology tools are available to support them as they lead their organizations to a successful future.

BoardEffect, a Diligent brand, leads in providing innovative boardroom technology and support to nonprofit organizations. Serving 14,000 mission-driven organizations, Diligent empowers boards with tools to drive positive change. It’s secure board management software streamlines operations, enhances governance practices, and enables confident decision-making. With BoardEffect, mission-driven organizations unlock potential, accelerate mission delivery, and make lasting impact in their communities.

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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