All board members require regular, continuing education at two levels. First, they need a solid understanding of your programs, so that they can speak credibly in their role as ambassadors for your organization. Second, they need tools to help them work effectively as a board. Education is a board responsibility – the board itself must determine its continuing education needs and how they should be met.
Education may take several different forms. Face-to-face interaction provides an opportunity for joint processing of information, debate and decision-making regarding application of concepts learned. Consider including an educational component in every meeting – even a 15-minute presentation or discussion can produce significant learning opportunities. Retreats offer this same face-to-face opportunity, in a concentrated setting and should be planned annually.
Written, web-based or audio materials also extend the “continuing education” value for individual board members. When possible, include time to discuss what they have been learning individually, to facilitate application of useful ideas and spark exchanges about broader issues as they affect your organization. ASK your board members how they prefer to learn in their personal and professional lives - and how that might be applied to their board development needs.
New and veteran boards – Include an educational component in every board meeting ( e.g., guest speaker) to address one of two educational needs: organizational (information about the organization) and board development (how to be a more effective board). Print and electronic media may be particularly useful as delivery vehicles. Establish a board development committee, or assign development tasks to an existing committee. Assign that group responsibility for identifying and scheduling educational programming.
Some questions to guide discussion:
• What are the continuing education needs of our members, and how do we address those needs?
• RE: our organization, our mission and our issues?
• RE: being effective board members?
• How can we enhance group and individual learning opportunities?