Huge changes are all around us – technology, the economy, climate change, the future of work and more. To truly be effective, volunteer boards must keep pace with how small and large changes impact their organisations and continually ask the right questions to guide their strategies, which will allow them to be more responsive.
What areas of change should your board focus on? National and global changes are currently challenging charities, nonprofit and community organisation boards to revisit the ways they:
- Manage risks
- Demonstrate transparency
- Engage in succession planning
- Bolster security
We’ll explore each of these topics more fully to guide your board as it strives for a meaningful strategic plan.
4 Key Areas of Strategic Planning for Every Volunteer Board
Change is occurring so rapidly that it can be difficult for nonprofit boards and foundations to respond to them appropriately. Keeping pace with trends affecting governance requires change even in the best of times.
Volunteer board members that already struggle with a lack of time for board activities can quickly become overwhelmed with how to develop responsible, forward-reaching strategic plans.
Dottie Schindlinger, Executive Director of Diligent Institute, the global corporate governance research arm and think tank of Diligent Corporation, shares some key strategic questions for your board to ask and answer (before your board gets to the point of leadership burnout, backlash, and a host of resignations!)
1. RISK MANAGEMENT
While the effects of COVID-19 are largely behind us, the abrupt changes your board had to make during that time have likely changed your organisation’s risks. Perhaps your board switched to video meetings or reorganised board member duties. You may have allowed workers to work remotely, or changed how you interact with donors and supporters. Each decision your board made changes your organisation’s risk profile.
Such robust changes may have unknowingly put extraordinary pressure on your board, and trustees may be hesitant to voice their concerns about the increased responsibilities.
The following questions concerning risk management will help spark new discussions at your next strategic planning session:
- Are we prepared for the next major crisis?
- What is our contingency plan if we have another crisis?
- Are we fully complying with regulations and policies?
- How are we monitoring internal & external risks?
- Where are we with digital transformation?
- Are we using technology ethically?
With a board management solution, you can collaborate and then store the discussion and actions for your board members to have instant access to the answers to these questions whenever and wherever they are.
2. VISIBILITY AND TRANSPARENCY
Visibility and transparency promote trust and accountability among donors and other stakeholders. Principle 7 of the Charity Governance Code states that “The board leads the organisation in being transparent and accountable. The charity is open in its work, unless there is good reason for it not to be.”
Your stakeholders are interested in knowing more about your mission, activities, and accomplishments. They also want to learn more about your finances and decision-making process before they determine how much support they’re willing to lend.
The following questions are key to help lend insight into your nonprofit’s efforts surrounding visibility and transparency:
- What red flags or gaps have our stakeholders identified?
- How can we be sure our third parties are compliant?
- How can we be sure all of the policies and regulations are followed?
- How can the board keep a finger on the pulse of organisational culture and reputation?
Before meeting with donors or stakeholders, board members will be able to pull all the pertinent data directly from your board management system, which will also help inspire trust.
3. ENGAGEMENT AND SUCCESSION
New board members may find it surprising when an existing board member informs them that one of their first duties is to start looking for their successor. As amusing as that may be, it’s not far from the truth. Part of the reason for term limits on nonprofit boards is to keep new ideas and perspectives alive in the boardroom.
Engaged boards are instrumental in keeping your charity or nonprofit’s mission moving forward, and that can be challenging with board members onboarding and offboarding every year.
Form a discussion around the following questions to strengthen strategic planning around engagement and succession:
- How can we get new directors up to speed and contributing quickly?
- How are we ensuring our succession plans meet our diversity, equity, and inclusion goals?
To streamline these routine activities, track board member recruiting efforts and orientation plans on your board management system. Store key documents, information and even training videos on your platform to make onboarding streamlined and easy for your new board trustee.
Perhaps you allowed your staff members and volunteers to work remotely during the pandemic out of necessity. Maybe technology has given your board innovative ideas on what types of data to collect and the ways your organisation can leverage it to further your mission. Technology may have enhanced your organisation’s ability to interact positively and more frequently with donors and stakeholders.
Certainly, such changes have brought unanticipated benefits to your organisation, yet your board may have approved changes without considering how to prevent security risks.
The following questions will help your board address data security risks as part of your strategic planning activities:
- Are we keeping sensitive information secure and protecting data privacy?
- Are we tracking who has access to confidential information and how they access it?
- How can we leverage technology to ensure the data we collect and use is secure?
BoardEffect is a highly secure platform that eliminates concerns over sensitive or confidential board matters.
Ensuring Good Governance in an Uncertain Environment
Good governance is challenging even on your best day as a volunteer board member, and the uncertain times we’re living in can make it even more difficult. Many nonprofits fall short as they lack the tools and knowledge to effectively participate in strategic planning. That doesn’t have to be the case.
While a strategic planning template is useful, it’s a mistake to merely follow a strategic planning template or revamp the previous strategic plan. A strong board considers key changes in the world around them and generates discussions about how those changes impact the organisation now and in the future.
The National Council of Nonprofits suggests tying some of the nonprofit’s strategic goals to your board meeting agendas regularly. Your board management solution provides an accessible platform where board members can keep a pulse on progress around strategic planning discussions.
BoardEffect is designed with the unique needs of volunteer boards in mind. Our nonprofit board management software streamlines board processes, and enhances and delivers secure communication, helping you to become an efficient and effective board.
Using technology can help boards be more efficient and effective. Curious to learn more? Explore how a modern digital solution to support board governance starts with a buying process designed to deliver optimal results. Contact BoardEffect to see a demo of the system today!