This is the fourth blog post in our series on not-for-profit board composition and communication based on survey results from 43 members of management and the boards of directors of not-for-profit organizations throughout Arkansas. Our previous posts in this series introduced the purpose of the survey and summarized the results of the survey related to board size, term limits, and board expertise. Below is a summary of the results of our survey related to the information needs of not-for-profit boards of directors.
When asked what needs to be done to ensure the organization receives the most benefit from its board, the most common responses related to communication. Ninety-three percent of all respondents stated they believe the information communicated to the board is adequate and timely. However, respondents provided the following suggestions to improve communication:
- Communicate expectations and responsibilities to potential board members prior to their appointment to the board in order to ensure each member is willing and able to fulfill the commitment.
- Distribute an agenda and important details, such as board minutes and financial and marketing reports, etc., prior to board meetings so that each board member can thoroughly review the information before the discussion. This will allow the meeting to run more efficiently and, more importantly, will help board members to make more informed decisions.
- Provide follow through on projects and communicate results in order to allow the board to effectively evaluate the results and ensure the organization is achieving its goals and mission.
- Consider the level of detail necessary to communicate to the full board as it may not be necessary for all committees to provide an extensive report to the board. This will allow the board to focus on the overall performance of the organization.
The board is available to provide more strategic leadership to the organization when board members receive necessary information prior to board meetings as this allows the discussion in board meetings to focus on brainstorming and strategic planning rather than being a recitation of facts and circumstances. Organizations may even consider tasking their board members with one strategic question at each meeting during a time limited break out session in order to achieve tangible take away results from each meeting.
Most not-for-profit boards consist of volunteers, and therefore, the time each member has available for the organization is limited. When the board is focused on the big picture, the overall health of the organization and its ability to accomplish its mission, the expertise and passion of the board is best leveraged to support management.
*Coming up in Part V of the blog series, we will discuss the format and frequency of not-for-profit board communication.