Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Taking your board packets (and other resources) online

Can an online portal really be a viable alternative to those hefty board packets we receive before each meeting?

An article in the latest issue of Nonprofit World, and a consultants-eye view of a start-up board collaborating via wiki, raise the question for me again this week. It's not a new idea, but I'd venture a guess that most boards lack a basic awareness that this is an option for both gaining 24/7 access to information needed to govern and reducing the sometimes crippling amount of paper that jams mailboxes.

You may wonder, "what's she talking about?" Let me share a brief outline of the approach my friend has taken in setting up a passw0rd-protected wiki for her board. On that site, she currently has the following:
  • Mission statement
  • Contact information
  • Current activity (including background on how/why the organization recently moved to nonprofit status and her activities as executive director)
  • Resources of interest to the board
  • A list of board members, with brief bios and contact information
  • A page for financial information
  • A page of running updates for the board
  • A page devoted to planning, including notes, activities and resources
What a great tool she has initiated for a brand-new board that is getting acquainted with each other and with the organization. She also has created an online repository of information they need to understand their responsibilities and govern effectively, and a place where board members can collaborate to continue their work between board meetings.

I tend to fall toward the 'geek' end of the technology adoption continuum, so I'd leap at the chance to serve on a board that uses an online portal for governance communication and information sharing. But I also know that I am in a distinct minority at this point. Would you, and your fellow board members, be open to using an online space to share information and continue the collaborative governance process? Do you know of organizations that have attempted to create and use such a tool? I'd love to visit with you about the possibilities and the potential challenges. Please share your thoughts, via comments on this post.

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