As we start getting back to in-person board meetings, volunteer board members are craving a better understanding of their role as directors of an association. Zoom-based board meetings have taken away the personal interactions that happen around board tables and put board members into isolation which makes it harder to understand their role.
As an association management company (AMC), we have the benefit of working with many different associations and their boards of directors. I work with dozens of directors across all the associations I serve. Each board member brings a unique set of skills, experience & longevity to each board table (business owners, health care providers, scientists, public members, etc.) so providing training and orientation can be a challenge.
Engage From the Start
It is crucial to provide orientation and training to new board members. They have made a commitment to volunteer for the Association and their time is valuable. The worst thing that can happen is if a new board member flounders in their role, becomes disengaged, and stops participating. Many people have said that it takes a year on a board to get used to the role and start understanding how you can participate and be effective. Those days are gone, and associations need to work smarter and harder to bring new directors up to speed to engage them.
I find that even experienced board members can use a bit of a refresher on the operation of the association and the board policies from time to time. When they don’t live and breathe association work every day, reminders are welcomed and sometimes needed. Orientation and training isn’t just for the new board members joining your association.
Every year at the first meeting after the Annual General Meeting, run the board members through the policies and procedures of the organization. Long standing board members might not see the value as they have heard the information before, but repetition is valuable to refresh their memory. New board members will be hearing this for the first time, so it is important that they hear it and understand how their role fits into association and where to reference these documents when they need to refer to them.
Many of our association clients have board binders in PDF format that house the crucial information they need to reference as board members, such as By-laws, AMC contract, policies, organizational structure, etc. When creating the PDF board binders, I would recommend setting it up in logical sections that have connectable links built in so board members can easily find the information they are looking for.
For important information on Board Orientation Manuals, read my colleague’s article on The First Steps to a Successful Association Board.
Training is always good for board members. There are books that can be provided to board members when they join the board that explain their fiduciary responsibilities and duties as directors. The Canadian Society of Association Executives (CSAE) has an online bookstore with many titles that would apply to first-time and long-term board members (Duties and Responsibilities of Directors of Not-for-Profit Organizations, Making Your Mark as a Not-Profit Board Member as examples). Supplying board members with these resources can make for a positive start to their role as a director.
I came across a very interesting online training resource this week that is geared toward both new board members and experienced board members – a platform called DirectorPrep. To describe what they provide, here is a section from their “About Us” on their website:
“DirectorPrep.com is here to help board directors, like you, access resources, prepare for board meetings and ask the kind of questions that lead to robust discussion around the board table.”
Resources for Training
I recently spoke with the co-founder of DirectorPrep and learned more about their philosophy and their offering to directors. The number of resources available was remarkable. Accessing the resources is on an annual subscription basis. Ninety eight percent renewal rate from their members indicates directors are seeing value in the information provided.
On the home page there is a video that introduces DirectorPrep and by clicking on the start now button, you can download five valuable free PDF’s that will assist you in being a director:
- Board Meeting Rules of Order
- Director Expectations
- Preparing for a Board Meeting
- The work of a Board Director
- Virtual Meeting Guide
These are samples of the library of information that is available on this platform.
Invest Yourself in Training
Another useful feature of the site is their Blog section. Blogs are emailed to members each Saturday and posted on the website weekly. The blog posted this week was an interesting read for me as one of my clients is dealing with “Ever-Changing Tech” and there were some helpful things in the blog that a director could find interesting as they sit at the board room table discussing technology needs.
There are a lot of resources to access for board training, the key is to find access them. A well-trained board member should feel valued and will provide more value at the board/Zoom table. Is the investment worth it? 100% of the time.
Read my colleague’s article, Ready to Be a Successful Board Leader? for more information on board orientation.