News

DS Group Therapy: Making An Investment in Your Board

Tue, December 06, 2011 10:07 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

By Joe Meares, DSAIA President

I travel a great deal with my “real” job. This gives me the opportunity to meet with many DSAIA members and to help recruit new members. In conversations with ED’s and board presidents, there is a common theme, regardless of the size of the organization; “We need our board to become more engaged and more involved”.

This theme resonates with both volunteer driven organizations and organizations with staffs of 5, but, board members understanding and effectively performing their duties is certainly more crucial for organizations that are entirely volunteer driven or have limited staff. 

In 1999, I was recruited to my first nonprofit board, a trade association representing two states. I moved up the ladder and was serving a term as president in 2007. By then I was serving on four nonprofit boards and I’d received a total of two hours of board training. I seldom missed meetings, did what I was asked to do within my skill sets (or comfort level), but, “the job” didn’t come with an instruction manual. In total, I’d sat through 500 hours of board meetings, 50 hours of strategic planning, but, only 2 hours learning my job as a director of the organizations.

I now see board service as a privilege and volunteer service doesn’t mean “as time allows”. Too often I hear stories of board meetings when less than half of the leadership is attendance.  I also believe it’s not fair to ask someone to serve on a board without training them for the job and responsibilities. This certainly wouldn’t work in our careers.  

Board training is crucial if your organization has a working board and necessary even if your board’s primary function is governance and direction.  “Continuous improvement”, especially with board leadership, should be a part of our organizational culture, not an ideal stated in a seldom viewed document.

Recognizing a problem is the first step in solving a problem.  DSAIA’s mission includes offering tools for continuous improvement and board development and training ranks high on the list of products we are routinely asked to provide.

The DSAIA Training and Education Committee have addressed these requests. Beginning in January, DSAIA will begin a six-month board training series featuring professionals from the nonprofit community presenting on topics such as Board Roles & Responsibilities, Fundraising with Your Board, and even Strategic Planning with Your Board. 

I hope each ED will encourage and each president will insist ALL of your board attends this valuable series. Ninety minutes a month for six months is a small sacrifice to better execute the responsibilities of the JOB required of board service.

I already know of 15 individuals who will be attending this series; the board members of your trade association!

To register for the six-month series (sessions are scheduled on the third Tuesday of each month at 8 pm Eastern), visit the DSAIA website at www.dsaia.org/webinars.  The Board Development Series is open to DSAIA members only. 

I want to tell you what WONDERFUL time I had at the conference. I learned so much and came away with lots of ideas for our organization. -Barb Waddle, The Upside of Downs of Northeast Ohio

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Down Syndrome Affiliates in Action started as a conference bringing together outstanding leadership from Down syndrome organizations around the country. Learn More

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