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Do board members at your nonprofit use the Web to collaborate?

Do board members at your nonprofit use the Web to collaborate?

  • Has your nonprofit considered creating a special online community or Web page where board members can meet and get updates?
    senior editor, TechSoup
  • No, they have not.

    It will likely not come to that until I show them that it can be done, and then find a legitimate example of how it can work for them.

    With my organization, there is nobody looking outside the box except me.

    Tim Claremont
    Systems Administrator
    Rochester, NY

  • For those interested in this topic, TechSoup has just published the article Getting your Board on Board, which offers tips for creating your own online space for board members.
    senior editor, TechSoup
  • Agree with tclaremont.
    The only way I have seen non-profit boards starting to use online collaboration tools is when there is a very specific need/task at hand - and then someone takes the lead to set everything up for everyone, hand-hold each member, prod and motivate to start using the tool.
    For example: Google Docs (formerly Writely) - for joint editing of the annual strategic plan.
  • Yes, we use a web-based site - Very useful.
  • We did create a board area on our website to post regularly needed information like meeting calendars, board directory, minutes and other documents.

    However, they don't seem to access it much and it's been very difficult to get committee chairs to submit their minutes and agendas to post on the site.
  • Keep in mind that an online community is a very dynamic medium. Some people will perfer a "push" approach to information, where the information is pushed to them via email, etc. Other's prefer a "pull" type of approach, where the customer goes and retrieves the information if and when they need it.

    The compromise is, of course, to offer both options. Let people sign up for email notifications if they so choose. Let people see and access the information that they need via the intranet if they prefer that. A board with any number of members will have people that prefer one or the other.

    The collaboration problem is initially seen by many as a problem that can be solved with technology, but in reality, there is a cultural change that must take place in order for a project such as this to be successful. If the culture of your board is dead set against participating in a forum or online community, then it will not matter how well designed and developed that effort has become. It will become stagnant and die as a result of lack of commitment on the part of the community.

    So, there isn't a "right' answer for everyone. If you are considering a project such as this, don't start with the computer, but rather, with the community.

    Tim Claremont
    Systems Administrator
    Rochester, NY

  • tclaremont has expressed my sentiments exactly.

    Trying to get my board into the 21st Century has been an extremely frustrating experience. Some of these folks never check e-mail - let alone a community board of some sort.

    I did use PhPBB as a discussion group and had "password protected" space for just board members. I held a training program and everyone agreed to use this for discussion. After a month, none of the board members had even logged in.

    Eventually, due to all the spambots hitting the discussion board, I took it off line - no one on my board even noticed.

    John E. Brandt Executive Director Maine ASCD
  • I agree that Google Docs is one of the best collaboration tools out there. It is free, has unlimited storage and presents a unique way to collaborate in real time.

    For those interested, here's a blog post I wrote about using Google Docs with a hands-on example and best practices:
    Online collaboration tools for non-profit board members
    Soha El-Borno, Creative Apricot
  • We have a board page on our website that lists them and has the meeting times, but that's about it. Most people just want to see their name on the website and maybe confirm when the next meeting is.

    And most people of board age aren't all computery, so we email agendas and minutes all that to them before the meetings (the aforementioned "push" method).

    I think for a lot of people, being on a board is a fulfilling, satisfying experience, and they care about the organization they're board-ing for, but it's kind of like going over to their in-law's house for dinner. They like them, and they want them to be healthy and happy, but their life is busy and it's not really that fun when they're there, so they don't exactly beg to go over all the time.

    If you have a particularly tuned-in, active board that's involved in actual task-work, AND they're asking for online collaboration tools already, go for it. If you're thinking to create something then pull back the sheet and go "VOILA!" I would guess it's not gonna be worth your time.
    Chris Broussard Director of I.T. Louisiana Association of Nonprofit Organizations
  • 14 years ago I managed an online network with nonprofits. We hosted some private spaces for board meetings. One of our mantras at the time, was
    "if you board is dysfunctional offline, they will be even more dysfunctional online." Of course, doing work online was a novelty back then.

    Anyway, here's an excellent checklist to determine whether you might have a better meeting - meeting remotely or eye-to-eye

  • I set up my colleagues on Yahoo! Groups. It had all the features we needed:

    -Messaging (to keep track of opinions, decisions, etc.)
    -Calendar (with a very useful multiple reminders function)
    -File repository (for manuals and policies)
    -Database creation (primitive list functionality but useful for ad-hoc contact lists etc.)
    -And last but not least Polls (we used these a few times during my tenure...very useful to keep track of who agrees with whom on certain issues, venues, etc.)

    Very easy to use too. Worth a try since it is free to set up.