Board Smarts: Governance 101

Looking to teach new volunteers the governance ropes? Take advantage of your LMS for orientation.

For a board to be effective, new members need adequate training and onboarding that ground them in the association’s mission, strategic plan, financials, and performance objectives. But there are many ways to provide orientation to your volunteer leaders—and some work better than others.

Until recently, Rick Grimm, CEO of NIGP, the Institute for Public Procurement, oriented new board members and committee chairs remotely, using a PowerPoint deck and phone conversations held throughout the year. The method was effective but time-consuming and needed to be reconfigured and automated, says Laura Shelters, director of content research and development at NIGP.

The tools we now have access to can create really engaging content.

“I said, ‘Hey, we have this learning management platform that our members already use to take trainings. We can absolutely use this same system to train and onboard our volunteers,’” she says. “We were able to tap into preexisting resources and work with our talent council to create a training that was everything a new volunteer needed to know and understand.”

The new “governance 101” course, which every new board member is required to take, is administered by a governance manager. The training includes recorded video and audio instruction, some of which is led by Grimm, as well as knowledge-check components to reinforce learning that takes place over three days.

“Things have come so far in online education. The tools we now have access to can create really engaging content,” Shelters says. “We were able to design a course that’s very useful.”

To maximize the effectiveness of the course, Shelters engaged her team of in-house instructional designers to create the program. Associations without an internal team could outsource the design work, she notes.

Having an onboarding curriculum that’s integrated into its LMS saves NIGP significant time and resources.

“A year ago, this was an extremely manual process for us, with a lot of chasing people down and keeping updated lists,” Shelters says. “Now it’s an automated process. The LMS has built-in reporting features and tracks volunteer progress as they go.”

Based on the early success of the onboarding course, NIGP is creating a second, more advanced course for volunteer leaders, which will roll out this summer.

“While the first course was much more about leadership need-to-knows, this next course is focused on leadership in practice,” Shelters says. “We are building in a lot of practice-based activities, critical-thinking exercises, and scenarios that a volunteer might actually encounter in the role.”

(Hiraman/Getty Images)

Tim Ebner

By Tim Ebner

Tim Ebner is a senior editor for Associations Now. He covers membership, leadership, and governance issues. Email him with story ideas or news tips. MORE

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