Educating Your Board of Directors

“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” – Nelson Mandela.

Education forms the foundation from which most everything else is created, making it one of the wisest investments a nonprofit can expend its precious resources on. Taking the time to educate your board of directors is one way you can develop that foundation so they are best prepared to serve your organization and its clients.

Keep in mind that many nonprofits do not formally educate their board members. Often, a nonprofit will assume that if someone is professional or a leader in their industry that they also have the knowledge to be an effective member on the board. Ultimately, this assumption can lead to increased risk and liability for your organization.

If you’re not educating your board members, who is?

Some questions to reflect on when considering topics to educate your new board member (or existing members for that matter):

  • Does each of your board members clearly understand the organization’s mission, vision, services, and programs well enough to make meaningful contributions in a leadership capacity?
  • What do orientation materials for new members include, and how are they used for onboarding new people?
  • Does your organization have an inclusive, formal orientation procedure in place for all incoming board members?
  • How do you train your board members for ongoing success?

Here are some ideas to consider implementing as you think about educating your board:

  • Board members should be diverse enough to bring different skills to the table. That said, you may need to consider educating them on mission-specific areas of your nonprofit. For example, teach them about the foster care and adoption process, or about how your homeless shelter changes the lives of its clients for the better.
  • From day one, help board members understand their roles and responsibilities. Knowing what is expected of them will encourage the confidence they need to be the leaders that your agency – and your clients – are counting on.
  • Customize educational opportunities to fit the needs of your board. Applicable areas of concentration can include fundraising, financial literacy, governance, and strategic planning. More often than not, there are board members who do not understand how to read financial data reports and the elements contained within. Arming them with this knowledge will also give them insight on the importance of their fundraising efforts as well as strategic planning.

The more effectively you educate your board members (especially regarding the agency’s mission), the more they are able to share with others throughout the communities you serve. They can use their newfound knowledge to both inform and strengthen relationships on your organization’s behalf, both now and well into the future.

Next week: Now that you have your board and they’re well prepared, it’s time to ensure they are everything your organization needs. How to engage and evaluate for board effectiveness.

For more information or questions about the contents of this article, please write or call Sara O’Neil @ sara@accreditationguru.com / 414.573.9287.   This post contains original content and was written for Accreditation Guru, Inc. Use of this copy is permitted with credit and reference within the same body of copy to Accreditation Guru, Inc.

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