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How Leaders Can Utilize Training to Engage Nonprofit Board Members


Guest Post
By: Elizabeth Voudouris

As nonprofits face growing complexities and challenges, getting the governance right has never been more important.  Well-meaning nonprofit board members can bring relevant skills, expertise and networks to the organization, but without a clear understanding of what their job is as a board member (and what it’s not), it can be difficult to engage them in appropriate board-level work.  In addition to a thorough orientation to the specific nonprofit organization, training on the role of the nonprofit board member is an effective way to inform board members about their roles and engage them in meaningful work.

Training can be delivered in many ways.

Some organizations invite a local governance expert to provide training to the full board at a regularly scheduled board meeting. The board benefits from the collective experience of learning and discussing its role and how the board overall might improve its performance. Topics can address the board member’s role in fundraising, outreach, oversight or even explore potential conflicts of interest.

Another option is to provide board members with articles or information to inform them about the fundamental responsibilities of nonprofit board members.  BoardSource publishes a number of useful booklets outlining board responsibilities, including the general overview, Ten Basic Responsibilities of Nonprofit Boards.

A third option is to send board members to a high quality training offered in the community.  Such trainings can be presented by local nonprofit support organizations, colleges and universities or law or accounting firms that have expertise in the nonprofit sector.  Leaders will want to attend any potential training session to ensure quality, professionalism and relevance before encouraging busy board members to attend.

Board members who understand their role will feel confident and are more likely to become engaged at the board and committee level.   Board leaders can use training as a way to inspire board members to leverage their expertise and networks on behalf of the nonprofit organization.  Ensuring a clear understanding of the basic responsibility of the nonprofit board is one way to foster board engagement and effectiveness.

This is a guest post written by Elizabeth Voudouris, executive vice president of BVU: The Center of Nonprofit Excellence. BVU is a nonprofit partner and community initiative of GAR Foundation.