Importance of Board Education

Nonprofit board members have an obligation to build and sustain the board as an effective governing body. The chief executive plays a role in the recruitment, nomination, and onboarding of board members but, ultimately, it is the board who must advance itself.

One important way to grow the board’s knowledge and capacity is to plan for and facilitate an annual board retreat. We love engaging with boards in a retreat format because the dedicated time allows for in-depth conversations, meaningful connections, and decision-making consensus.

Board retreats are typically once a year, and finding ways to continue board education beyond the retreat can be a challenge. The following are tips to support your board.

  • Create a book club where a different board member chooses a book and leads conversations once per quarter, or compile a reading list that is shared broadly. Choosing books that are not just about leadership and management, but focus on the sector in which you work, can be truly enriching. We often refer to books written by Peter Drucker, but several years ago, an organization asked every board member to read Nickel and Dimed by author Barbara Ehrenreich, and it proved to be eye-opening for board members.
  • Invite board members to recommend a blog, podcast, or local media outlet that they found interesting. Our staff meetings have a standing “publications/learning” line item on our agendas that allow any staff member to share content that was of interest to them. We lift up guest columnists in our blogs every month, including this column by Tariq Tarey or this column by Elizabeth Martinez. Sharing posts like these with board members is a simple way to expand knowledge.
  • Engage with your local college or university. Faculty research and lectures can provide a unique lens into an issue that they are studying. In 2022, two faculty members from the John Glenn College of Public Affairs at The Ohio State University — Dr. Erynn Beaton and Dr. Megan LePere-Schloop — released groundbreaking research on sexual harassment of development professionals. We have shared their findings, specifically the statistic that 3 in 4 fundraisers have experienced sexual harassment on the job, with clients. Both chief executives and board members have responded that they “had no idea”.
  • Assign strategic topics to board meetings by using a dynamic agenda. Giving board members time to think about a specific topic, well in advance of showing up to the meeting, will create a better climate for discussion and learning.

We hope these ideas spur more conversations at your organization. Share what has worked for you and tell us how education has been used to build a stronger board.

Share this Story, Choose Your Platform!

Lastest Posts