Fifth of the series: 
8 Strategies for Empowering your Nonprofit Board

Board members come to their board service as a result of being passionate about the organization’s mission and as expression of support of the organization. Members bring experience, perspective, ideas, leadership and diverse skills, which provides oversight, governance and/or advice to ensure the success of the organization. It is no understatement to say that board membership usually requires a high level of commitment

A board’s membership includes community leaders, business leaders, professionals, and people from all walks of life. A common mistake board leadership makes is to assume that every board member has relatively the same background that prepares him or her for board service. Since all board members do not have the same background, an otherwise enthusiastic board member may be intimidated by more experienced board members and therefore hold back from contributing ideas. Wise board leadership works toward providing an enriching board experience for all members.

There are a number of ways to make certain that your board members reach equivalent levels of board expertise.

Begin with orientation for new board members. As discussed in Empowering Board Members – Ensure a Successful Start, ideally, your organization has a prescribed process for “on-boarding new members” that gives an overview of service expectations through new member orientation. Invite any board member who feels as if he or she may need a bit of a “refresher.”

Provide training situations that include all members, regardless of experience, to encourage board members to get to know one another. In these training sessions, all members are able to appreciate the skills and insights of each other’s contributions.

Institute a next-level training that will benefit them professionally. Board members are leaders; leadership training is always valuable to them. This kind of next-level training is also a way of acknowledging the commitment and investment board members make to the organization as a valued board member.  (See also Empowering Board Members – Add Value to Membership)

Provide ongoing training to all of the board on topics that pertain to board service. It is not necessary to have formal training sessions that add a burdensome time commitment to an already busy board member. A series of 15-minute trainings followed by Q&A time can be slotted in at the end of a board meeting that typically is shorter than other meetings.

If your board tends to have long meetings that would make this difficult, refer to Empowering Board Members – Communicate.  The alternative to combining training with board meetings is a separate event that covers a year’s board training in one session. This could be executed through video conferencing to ensure all board members are able to attend.

Make increasing expertise for your board members a part of your organization’s strategic plan. Contact us to learn how.