Working with an organization that has a national board presence can be a daunting task, leaving non-profit managers feeling overwhelmed and board members feeling disconnected. At Barnes Dennig, we gathered a few of our esteemed clients that are faced with this challenge to share their experiences and information to overcome what could be a predestined failure of board development and involvement.
Hosting Virtual Meetings
While most of the organizations involved have very well run, established boards, they all shared the common goal of using technology to enhance the board member’s experience and connectivity throughout the year. While some ensured us that a good ole fashioned conference call was all they needed, most preferred utilizing on-line tools such as GoToMeeting to host monthly board meetings, providing a “face-to-face” setting to gauge the board’s enthusiasm and connectivity during the meeting. Some keys to hosting a productive virtual meeting are as follow:
- Share information well ahead of time to encourage active participation
- Over-communicate your expectations of the board’s participation
- Utilize sub-committees to share the responsibility and talking points throughout the meeting
- Reinforce the rule – crickets mean “yes”
Although they can be cost-prohibitive, most of the participating organizations expect at least bi-annual in-person board meetings, as technology can only take you so far. This will help with encouraging involvement in important strategic direction discussions and re-engagement in the organization’s mission.
Other NonProfit Technology
Other technology that was suggested was the use of customizable web-based programs, such as Higher Logic, to connect with board members across the States or configuring the organization’s website to be used as a mini-CRM system. Microsoft Office 365 also offers a cloud-based share-file system that could help in keeping the board members connected and up-to-date on the day-to-day operations.
The other key to maintaining active and engaged boards is to incorporate a discussion on succession planning on a regular basis (potentially, every meeting). This is especially important for organizations with a national board presence, where board recruitment and retention can be especially difficult. Setting appropriate board limits can also help to encourage rotation and recruitment of new members.