StreamLink Software and BoardSource are teaming up to present a multi-part blog series entitled a 360 Degree View from the Board.
“Some aspects of board service are constant. Each player in the boardroom, whether it’s the board chair, board member, or chief executive, has a role to fulfill and a set of expectations to meet. Other aspects change with the times. Committee structures change, processes are refined, and strategic plans help both board and staff members refocus organizational direction and work toward greater impact. In recent years, the rise of smartphones and other technology have created a culture accustomed to having any and all data within reach at all times. Have these technological developments changed the way that nonprofit boards interact during and between meetings? Are boards doing all they can to use technological tools to maximize efficiency and focus on exceptional governance?”
Danielle M. Henry
Communications Coordinator, BoardSource
Part Three: A View from a Board Member
The following questions were presented to Sandra Holmes.
What role-specific activities do you have to do in order to prepare for a board meeting, and what is the level of time and effort required?
I sit on five different boards so my role varies, depending on the organization, but typically, I look at my notes within 24-48 hours post meeting (any longer than that and my memory is toast) and make certain that I add any projects/responsibilities to my “to do” list. I make note of progress prior to the next meeting, be it committee or board and review notes at least couple of days prior to meetings to make sure I take care of business. For example, on one board, I’m the chair of the governance committee which covers staff -board relations, all HR functions, compensation, benefits, board recruitment & training, board satisfaction and any HR policy issues that emerge. I work closely with the CEO and we conference on a weekly basis, usually by phone. I probably spend between 2-4 hours per week on this function.
What’s the biggest challenge in your role as it relates to the board?
My biggest challenge is making the time to do the job in a creative and compelling way that adds value to the organization. Striving to bring the best to the table always demands more time, and that is a scarce resource.
In what area do you see the most need for process improvement?
In virtually every organization in which I’m engaged, data and information is kept in an idiosyncratic way that doesn’t lend itself to good communication. I want the information I need at my fingertips and don’t want to have to create my own “filing system” in order to be able to conduct business.
How has technology changed the way you conduct board business?
Not enough! Of course, 90% of board members are now reachable via email and have “smart phones” but most non-profits (especially the smaller ones) have barely scratched the surface of how technology can improve communication, efficiency and productivity. Many organizations simply don’t have the fiscal resources or the in-house knowledge to add “technology wizard” to their staff while still delivering top-notch services to their clients.
Image Source: Michigan Municipal League
About Sandra Holmes
Sandra Duncan Holmes is a community activist and volunteer who spent her working life in non-profit management. She currently loves the flexibility of retirement which allows time for travel (the more places the better) golf, gardening and most of all, enjoying her active life as the wife of a still hard-working, saintly husband, the mother of two wonderful women, mother-in-love to two great sons-in-law, and four amazing grandsons aged 2,4,6 & 8.
Read the Other Interviews in the Series:
Learn strategies to better engage your board in our free ebook, Maximizing Board Engagement and Effectiveness.