Wednesday, February 14, 2007

The Content of Governance-Training Topics

Governance is a multi-faceted leadership responsibility, requiring knowledge and capacity to act in the best interest of a nonprofit organization and the stakeholders it serves. The needs assessment’s first section asked board members to rate their level of training on six critical governance roles (from 1, “not trained,” to 5, “completely trained”).

I quickly realized that simply considering the means on each of the topics told an incomplete story. Instead, comparing the low end of the scale (the “not trained” and “minimally trained” responses) to the high end (the “somewhat trained” and “completely trained”) might suggest the potential for more basic training needs in some areas and advanced exploration of others.

Examining the data in this way suggests that this particular group feels fairly confident (“somewhat” to “completely” trained) in the following areas:

• Individual board member responsibilities (56.3 percent)
• Board responsibilities (66.7 percent)
• Board-director relationship (56.3 percent)
• Board-community relationships (56.3 percent)

Lower levels of confidence were expressed in these areas:

• Board member recruitment and retention (35.4 percent)
• Board self-assessment (31.9 percent)

I asked respondents to rate their perceived level of training on seven core governance responsibilities in the second set of questions in this section. Results showed a similar sense of confidence, with responses to five of the seven topics falling on the upper end of the scale:

• Mission development (64.6 percent)
• Strategic planning (56.2 percent)
• Board role in fund-raising (56.3 percent)
• Program evaluation (50 percent)
• Personnel policies (58.4 percent)

Lower levels of confidence were expressed for:

• Financial oversight (43.8 percent)
• Program selection (36.2 percent)

As I review these numbers again, I’m reminded of two things. First, nowhere was there consensus that respondents are absolutely prepared to handle their responsibilities as board members. There always is room for expanded understanding and thinking about these topics in different ways.

Second, I am reminded that respondents are experienced and involved board members. They bring to the table a variety of board experiences, obtained over time, that undoubtedly have a cumulative effect on their understanding of governance. It would be tempting to focus programming on adding to this veteran group’s toolbox of resources. But in doing so, we would miss the obvious opportunities to recruit new board members who bring new energy to community and nonprofit leadership.

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