When it comes to nonprofit management, technically the Board of Directors is the employer and “boss” of the executive director or executive staff. In reality, while this may be the facts, the executive staff IS in a position to serve as educators for board members. There is an obligation and opportunity for executive staff to motivate, inform and educate board members.
Board members are not simply there to rubberstamp staff recommendations. The more informed and educated board volunteers are, the better equipped they will be to provide solid leadership for the organization or agency. Executive staff can “teach” board members how to be better at their jobs, but it takes commitment, creativity and determination.
Consider how to educate board members on basic nonprofit management strategy and tasks, as well as providing the information and education they need to understand the mission and programs of the organization or agency. It is not enough to recruit passionate individuals and then trust they will “figure out” how the organization operates over time. Board meetings can include education, as well as the opportunity to take care of the current business at hand.
Dedicate a portion of the board meeting to hearing from program people on what is going on at a grass roots level in the organization. Additionally, consider ways to make sure that board members know HOW to read financial documents and understand the statistics, numbers and information that is being provided to them at each board meeting. It is not unreasonable to provide orientation and “training” sessions for board members when they first come on to help orient them to the culture and operations of the organization.
While it would be great to have a board chair or president who can do this, that is not always the case. The executive staff may need to step in and provide ongoing education and information to keep board members functional and informed.