4 Ways to Prioritize Board Education Year-Round

Lisa Tylke
February 8, 2022

Today, I’d like to talk about one element of board-building that clients often forget about: board education beyond the onboarding process. 

Our board members want to be good stewards of our mission and support the organization’s growth and fundraising. But in order for them to do their best work, we need to ensure we’re providing them with the tools they need to succeed. 

What does that look like? Year-round learning opportunities that will support your board members’ understanding of their responsibilities, help them more deeply connect with your organization’s work and expand their knowledge about relevant issues within the nonprofit sector. 

Investing time and resources in board education–beyond the onboarding process–will strengthen your board. To foster a happy and healthy board that works effectively, it’s vitally important to have a year-round board curriculum. 

If you’re ready to get started, here are 4 ways I recommend prioritizing board education throughout the year: 

  1. Annual board surveys. To advance board education, it’s important to check in with board members. Are they having difficulty achieving their fundraising goals? If so, why, and what are the pain points? Are there areas of board work they could use clarity on or deeper understanding around such as finance, committee leadership and process, board/staff communications, etc.? What, in particular, are they interested in learning more about within your organization’s mission space? Regular check-ins are a great way to ensure board members know you value their personal growth and that continuous learning is a priority for board members.
  2. Tailored professional development. Of course, you want your board members to be well-informed about your organization and mission, but board education can also mean supporting them in developing professional skills that apply to their role as board members. To make this happen, plan and invest in one or two professional development presentations each year.  Make room for them during regular board meetings. Keeping in mind your board members’ interests and pain points, think about topics you see as beneficial to your board’s educational growth such as how social-emotional skills support effective group process, the nuances of nonprofit finance, the importance of intentional and authentic diversity, equity and inclusion practices within an organization, or how to become a great storyteller for your organization. These are all great topics for building a strong, better-informed board.
  3. Board retreats. Board retreats are a wonderful way to recharge your board members’ passion for your organization’s work. They’re also a good time to refresh board members' understanding of their responsibilities and provide in-depth learning opportunities. (If you’re ready to plan a board retreat, don’t forget to check out today’s freebie: Download Board Retreat Agenda.)
  4. Mission moments at board meetings. Rather than jumping straight into business, I encourage you to start each board meeting with a mission moment. A mission moment should not be a statistic, but rather a success story of someone who was positively impacted by your organization’s work. Invite program staff, volunteers or clients to share their stories. Photos and videos are a great way to share impact, too! Reminding your board members about why they’re involved and why this work is so very important will lead to a more motivated, passionate, and effective board.

If you’re looking for additional support around board development, you won’t want to miss our personalized board education trainings or one-on-one support from our experienced consultants. You can get in touch with me at lisatylke@evolvegg.com if you’re interested in further support. 

And don’t forget to download today’s freebie for a sample board member retreat agenda!