The boardroom tends to be built with a certain tradition in mind—think Robert’s Rules of Order, not far from its 150th anniversary.
There’s a good reason for hewing to tradition: When the process is clear and understandable, your association’s board is well positioned to focus on the big picture rather than the mechanics of running board meetings.
But in an era when routines are changing and making us question processes, boards could benefit from a modern approach. Start here:
Orient Your Board Effectively
Association board members are often taking leadership roles in the nonprofit space for the first time, so there’s a lot to learn—and not gaining a sufficient understanding of their new responsibility can affect their entire tenure.
But the right tactics can help. Patti Montague, CAE, FASAE, the CEO of the School Nutrition Association (SNA), said her association changed the way it approached orientation for its board members—many of whom work in school district settings—as a result of the pandemic.
“Pre-COVID, we used to do it as part of another meeting,” she said. “We would pull people out of a leadership conference that we bring our state leaders in for, and we used to pull the board for 3½ hours—after them being in a day-and-a-half board meeting.”
COVID-19 drove a shift toward Zoom meetings—which allowed SNA to chunk up orientation sessions into more manageable bites—as well as ongoing touch points. Montague often shares articles and books that support the lessons she wants to impart. “We’re trying to reinforce their learning and make it a continuous process,” she said.
As another example, Francesca M. Dea, CAE, the CEO of SCAI: The Society for Cardiovascular Angiography and Interventions, said her organization leans on a full-day formal training session for its president-elect. The twist? The session is then repeated just before they become president, giving the incoming official a deeper understanding of what’s at hand.
“The first time, they really start to absorb it—and then they go through it with the lens of ‘this is all me next year,’” she said.