Education Creates a Great Board

Everyone wants to have a great nonprofit board. Education plays an important role in achieving that dream.

Deep in our hearts, we all realize that success comes from having the right people doing the job rather than having the standard process for doing the job. However, we often find that boards focus more on process (committees are meeting, the agendas are followed, the reports are read, and the budgets are balanced) than they do on their board members and achieving goals.

Most nonprofit executives and board chairs are frustrated about committees, agendas, reports, budgets, and all of the other things that boards do. The committee met but their accomplishments are few and far between. The agenda was followed but very little was accomplished. The budget was balanced but the mission is struggling and critical projects are delayed due to lack of funds. The reports show activity but the nonprofit is having trouble making progress.

If we assume you have the right people on the board (the right people doing the job), why are the leaders frustrated? Ask yourself if education is the solution.

Often the board members either need more information so they can do a better job of planning, project management, and goal setting or they need training to become better planners and project managers. In either case, education is the answer. There may also be other reasons, but until education and the skill building necessary to implement the knowledge is provided, it is hard to know what the other reasons might be.

Next Step:

Make a list of the educational topics and training your board needs to achieve the greatness your clients and mission deserve

Ask the Board Development Committee to create an education plan for the board

Reserve 15 – 30 minutes at the beginning of each board meeting for education

Develop a method for evaluating the effectiveness of the board education

Sometimes the immediate reaction we hear is that the agenda is too long and adding another 15 – 30 minutes is out of the question. We agree. Our recommendation is to eliminate the committee reports. If very little is being accomplished, what harm would it do to skip the committee reports?

Our experience tells us that after a few effective educational sessions the board’s effectiveness improves. When that happens several benefits accrue:

The board meetings take less time so the committee reports can be added back

The committees become more effective and their progress deserves to be reported

The effectiveness of the mission improves along with the efficiency of the staff

The sustainability of the nonprofit increases because the board is more effective

The engagement of the board members improves because they have a sense of accomplishment

The donors are more generous and loyal because they know their gifts are being used effectively

We all know education is important to success. The board is important to the success of a nonprofit. An educated board certainly makes success easier to attain. How much more successful will your nonprofit be in 2013, when your board has an education plan?

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