Technology has brought us many valuable business tools, including the ability to hold virtual board meetings. As with any new product, early board meeting software solutions were imperfect at best. Over time, programmers learned how to design the features and functions for meeting participants to conduct virtual meetings via teleconference and videoconference that place meeting attendees in the same virtual space.
Virtual meetings can be of great value to nonprofit boards and their members because their purpose and needs differ from those of corporate boards. Board management software takes virtual meetings a step further, with solutions that streamline processes for creating board packets, developing agendas and creating board meeting minutes. Board management software also supports other vital board functions like self-evaluations, board orientation, auditing, compliance and other annual board processes.
Value of Virtual Board Meetings
Board service isn’t a full-time event for most board directors, who cheerfully volunteer their time for causes about which they care deeply. Many nonprofit board directors have additional commitments to full-time jobs, families, and other activities and responsibilities.
Having the option of virtual board meetings makes it easier for many board members to attend all board meetings, despite the busyness of life. Virtual board meetings make it more likely that small boards will have a quorum at each meeting, which alleviates the need for constantly rescheduling meetings. Virtual meetings often allow space for an unlimited number of participants, which is of great value to nonprofits with large boards.
Nonprofit boards can increase their productivity by utilizing virtual meetings as needed. Virtual meetings cut down on the time and expense of travel arrangements for board directors who live out of the geographical area of the board meeting space. Boards can expect to reduce their expenses for travel, hotels, meals, transportation and other expenses, especially for boards that need to bring board directors in from out of the country.
Virtual meetings allow board directors to attend a meeting from their home, office or anywhere they happen to be. The time savings provides extra hours to invest in their board work, preparing for presentations, working on fundraising or planning for the organization’s goals.
For many people, the mere mention of board meetings conjures up thoughts of long, boring board discussions. Virtual meetings make arduous board meetings more appealing for current board members and board member candidates. Efficiency and convenience create incentives for board directors and candidates to commit their time. Efficiency and productivity also go a long way toward improving morale and preventing burnout in board directors.
Occasionally, board directors face a situation that requires scheduling an emergency board meeting. This type of circumstance doesn’t need to create a hardship for board directors. A virtual meeting makes it possible for all or most board directors to attend a last-minute special or emergency meeting to address an urgent matter.
Very Few Cons for Virtual Meetings for Nonprofits
Technology has come a long way toward providing applications for virtual meetings that are of high quality. To date, virtual meetings still have a few downsides. The quality of voice and video transmission has greatly improved; however, the applications can still make it difficult to see facial expressions and to read body language. These issues can occasionally create misunderstandings or conflicts.
The lack of direct eye contact can make it more difficult for some board chairs to engage the board evenly in discussions. Some concern over confidentiality remains. Are board members truly alone if they’re sitting in a hotel room while traveling or if they’re participating in a meeting while in a public space?
These few issues call into concern whether virtual meetings are practical or appropriate for complex or urgent matters.
While virtual meetings aren’t the perfect solution for all board meetings, they certainly have a valuable place under certain circumstances.
Something that technology has brought us that always serves a valuable purpose is board management software.
Utilizing Board Management Software to Support In-Person and Virtual Nonprofit Board Meetings
Board management software solutions help nonprofit board directors to make the best of the pros and cons of virtual board meetings. Board portals provide a secure meeting platform in which board directors can view meeting materials in real time.
There’s no need to download software for a virtual meeting or wonder whether it will even work. It’s fast and easy to log into the portal and to access all documents, agendas, meeting minutes, reports and other information at your fingertips.
BoardEffect provides a secure platform for creating board books and agendas and preparing meeting minutes. BoardEffect’s board portal gives nonprofit board directors the capability to brand their board meeting materials with proprietary designs, logos and colors.
Board portal software makes it easy for board administrators to know who is online. They can create user permissions to limit access to sensitive documents and support best practices with internal controls. Board portals assist board directors with legal and regulatory compliance and following up on important action items.
Regulations and laws have followed technological advances. As long as bylaws allow for it, many state laws for nonprofits allow nonprofit boards to use electronic signatures and e-voting procedures.
Virtual board meetings for nonprofits can make meetings more focused and meaningful. They’re rapidly becoming a necessity in today’s world. The cost of virtual meetings is coming down and the quality of the applications is improving, making virtual meetings a possibility for all nonprofit boards. Many nonprofits find their best value in combining some semblance of face-to-face and virtual meetings.
Nonprofit organizations provide a valuable service to their communities. They fill the gaps in services that governments can’t — or won’t. The passion and drive to improve the lives of others exist in the people of every community. Time constraints due to careers, families and personal matters often limit the availability of willing, quality volunteers, even when a charitable cause lays heavy on someone’s heart.
BoardEffect has designed board management software tools with these issues in mind. Board portals support board directors in the very important work that they do to enhance their efforts and make nonprofit board service enjoyable and rewarding.