Training Tips for Nonprofit Boards

Training is an important step in building a strong board of directors. In the winter 2015 issue of Saving Land, a publication of the Land Trust Alliance, our own Marc Smiley offers a few of his favorite tips:

  • Look at the big picture. Many nonprofits put a lot of energy into recruiting their board members, but they don’t follow up with further board development. Building an engaged, capable board takes a five-step process: recruitment, orientation, training, evaluation, and recognition.
  • Use the experts you’ve got. You don’t always have to bring in an outside expert. Someone on your board or staff might be just the right person to lead a session. You can also invite people from other nonprofits, so you both learn and build partnerships. Just remember, training is a skill. If your expert is not a skilled trainer, consider pairing him or her with someone who is.
  • Make conferences go further. These gatherings offer rich opportunities to learn. But most organizations can’t afford to send more than a few board members. So ask the ones who go to lead a training session when they get back, sharing what they learned.
  • Teach what people want to learn. Board members want to learn about topics that are immediately relevant to their organization — information they can put into action. Both internal and external topics are useful — that is, learning how to do the job of a board member and learning how the land trust does its job — so strike a balance. And don’t get overly technical. Your board members want to learn from experts, but they don’t need to be experts themselves.
  • Keep it coming. You don’t just train the board once and you’re done. Ongoing training is part of your commitment to building a great board.

For more resources on building an effective board, check out our Resources page.