Leading a nonprofit organization is a lot like preparing for an athletic competition. It requires consistent training, practice, and a plan to succeed. An athlete never gets to check the box off next to a basic skill. It doesn't matter how many times you've run that drill—you still review, practice, and adapt when necessary, and yes, keep on training. And it is the same for a board of directors.
A board is never past the need for training. Seasons, needs, pandemics, growth, and experiences are just some of the variables that change the environment in which a nonprofit lives. All board members benefit from regular governance training. So let's talk about what some of those benefits include:
1) Ongoing, cyclical orientation. Just because you’ve been on a particular board awhile doesn’t mean you know everything. Asking naïve questions helps strengthen the board as individuals and as a whole. Making governance training and conversations a regular part of your conversation helps to ensure that all board members—both new and old alike—are on the same page.
2) All nonprofits have a life-cycle, which means that no two organizations need the same board—you need to be equipped to give your organization the most relevant skills, perspective, and leadership based on where it is and what it needs. No two boards are alike. If you’ve served on a board, then you’ve served on one board. Know where your organization is in its life cycle and seek deep understanding on what your board needs to provide.
3) You are legally liable for the organization. When you know what you’re liable for, you will make informed, responsible decisions. Board training can inform that process and may provide you with the information that will protect you.
4) More efficient meetings, more effective decisions. When a board is well-trained and each member knows their role, things run more smoothly. Meetings become more engaging and decisions are more thoughtful and strategic. Who doesn’t want that?
5) Increased impact. A board made of trained and informed experts is one that advocates for its organization and inspires action. Staff are motivated to perform and then the community sees and benefits from the mission work accomplished.
6) More funding. There are over 51,000 nonprofits in the state of Michigan alone. Your organization literally cannot afford to operate with a mediocre, meets-expectations board. There are tens of thousands of organizations seeking the same donors, seeking the same funding—if you want rise above the rest, you need to be on top of your game.
At the end of the day, it's up to the board to make sure that a nonprofit is fulfilling its purpose—that it is advancing its mission and making true, lasting impact on the community. Board governance training is a crucial role in that success.
Plan to join us May 19th, 2022 for Unstick Your Board Meetings, a 1-hour webinar centered around common practices, myths and mistakes that make board meetings less effective with modifications that allow more efficiency.
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*blog updated from Aug. 2018
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