Last updated May 14, 2018
Providing effective governance requires your trustees to engage with ongoing learning and professional development. However, for many trustees, taking time-out to attend a workshop or seminar can be a big ask. Check out these seven ways trustees can upskill in ten minutes or less.
1. Invite an Expert
Allow ten minutes at every Board meeting for an expert to talk with your trustees. They may be an expert in topics as wide as Health and Safety, Strategy, Marketing, Policy Writing, Social Media, Recruitment or Fundraising. Whatever the topics, regularly inviting an expert to your meetings is a great way to fill knowledge gaps on your Board and give outside perspectives.
Depending on the topic, you may ask the expert to give a short presentation or you could keep it as an informal question and answer session. If you let the expert know what you are trying to achieve, they will be able to suggest the best format and if necessary, provide resources for further learning.
2. Watch a TED Talk or You Tube Clip
There are hundreds of fantastic online videos that can both inspire and inform your Board. Either play a clip at every Board meeting, or send a link to trustees each month so they can watch the clip in their own time. One I would highly recommend is Dan Pallotta’s TED Talk: The Way We Think About Charity is Dead Wrong. It is slightly longer than 10 minutes, but definitely worth the watch.
You could also put trustees on a roster, whereby they take turns recommending a video for the following month. This way they are not only watching the video suggested, they are also watching other videos in their search to recommend.
3. Read an Article
There are plenty of places you can find articles about Non-Profit Governance online. This website has loads to browse, as does www.betterboards.net . Choose one to read out loud at each Board meeting or send it out ahead of time and allow ten minutes to discuss it together when you meet.
As you regularly hunt out articles, you can build up a collection of resources that trustees can refer back to as required. If your trustees actively use technology to communicate, create a shareable document with relevant links. If they do not yet maximise the cloud, simply print out the articles and keep them in a central folder.
4. Listen to a Podcast
If you’re not a podcast listener yet, I encourage you to try it out. In a nutshell, a podcast is an online audio presentation or interview with an expert on a specific topic. You can download individual podcasts to your phone or device, and even subscribe to a podcast series so that new episodes are downloaded automatically. Then you can listen anytime, anywhere.
A quick online search for Non-Profit Podcasts will give you a list of thousands, but because podcasts range in length from 5 minutes to an hour (or more), you’ll need to check out the length of the episode before you ask your trustees to tune in. The podcast series ‘Conquering Non-Profit Chaos’ has some 10-15 minute episodes, as does the Non-Profit Hub ‘Hubcast’. However, if you can stretch your learning time a little longer, I recommend you check out ‘Non-Profits are Messy’ with Joan Gary.
5. Be the Teacher
One of the best ways to learn is to teach. On a rotating basis, ask each trustee to research best practice on a specific governance topic and report their findings at the next meeting. By asking every trustee to take a turn you will share the responsibility and ensure that different perspectives are heard. Allowing trustees to research an area they are interested in will have a better outcome than giving them a prescribed topic, so be prepared to cover a range of issues.
6. Invite Other Organisations
Invite trustees from other non-profits to speak at your Board meeting about how they carry out specific governance activities. You can return the favour by speaking at their Board meeting the following month. Not only is this a good way to engage in peer learning, you may well end up collaborating in other ways if you give it a chance.
7. Work Through a Governance Guide
There are hundreds of books available on Non-Profit Governance, but working through them on your own can be a bit of a struggle, especially if you’re a new trustee. Consider working through the book together as a Board. Each month trustees could read a chapter in their own time, and then allow ten minutes at the Board meeting to discuss and reflect.
Exult has a great snackable e-book called ‘Introduction to Governance’. You can purchase a PDF copy for $15 and then distribute it to your whole Board. You should be able to work through this guide in 3-4 meetings. Order online here or email firstname.lastname@example.org to arrange your copy.