While Board training can be an annual ongoing project, the optimum time to have it is after your Annual General meeting and before your first regular Board meeting. Usually 3-5 hours is appropriate however depending upon the complexity of the organization, full day sessions may be necessary. A step-by-step process is below.
- Choose an independent, experienced trainer to facilitate the process. An individual who has been a Chief Staff Officer and a Board member of an Association or other nonprofit organization is a wise choice.
- Identify a location to have the training. A boardroom with enough space for a projector, screen and flipcharts is sufficient. Many organizations are conducting the session away from their office or at a retreat setting. Keep the session professional, yet fun, and positive in nature.
- It’s valuable to have the trainer telephone the participants to make enquiries about the Board’s existing knowledge level, keeping in mind that there may be new Board members with little or no Board experience. Other new Board members may come from organizations that follow differing Board models such as an operating Board or a formal policy Board, which differs immensely. You do not want confusion during the session and into the new term. A skilled facilitator will be able to explain the differences and the appropriate Board model to use.
- Ensure the session is interactive, beginning with a review of common sectoral documents such as their current strategic plan, bylaws, and Board policy manual. Not all organizations have complete documents and for those that don’t, explain the need for them. Include a very quick introduction to their exterior governing legislation (in British Columbia this is the Societies Act). Keep in mind that most directors are volunteersand have limited time, yet be sure they know what they ‘need to know’.
- Provide examples of effective meeting management including consent agendas and timed agenda items.
- Use a customized PowerPoint including a matching workbook for each participant.
- Discuss the Board member’s roles and responsibilities. Be open to questions and concerns in these areas.
- Have a respectful, yet frank, conversation about Board member potential liabilities and methods to mitigate them, including their Directors and Officers insurance. Explain the differences between conflict of interest and perceived conflict, outlying the process of dealing with potential issues.
- Provide examples and templates of Board and/or Chief Staff Officer evaluations including the need for regular, ongoing evaluation.
- Discuss emerging trends such a smaller Boards, and the reduction or elimination of an executive committee.
- Provide time for a Q& A.
While this is not an exhaustive list, it’s a good start.