Board Management Software: Only Pay for What You Need
Smart nonprofits are always looking for better tools to engage their boards of directors. It’s an incredible time for productivity; there are digital solutions for almost every single need. However, there’s also a danger of overkill. You start to patch together apps and software until, suddenly, the board is using 15 different programs or paying for features and monthly services they don’t want or need. Let’s look at some guidelines to avoid digital bloat in the pursuit of nonprofit board management.
1. Don’t Get Tangled in ‘Digital Duct Tape’
Boards need to have email capabilities. Each person has their preferred provider, whether that is Outlook, Gmail or a number of other options. They also need document storage options, like Dropbox. Scheduling tools such as Doodle are helpful for coordinating dates with a large group of people.
Don’t forget to pick a calendar and try to sync it up with everyone else’s. Some people like to make documents in Google Docs, while others use Microsoft products. Add in those board members whose work environments prohibit outside programs. It’s easy to see how a single meeting can be held together by a dozen pieces of “digital duct tape.”
So, what’s the problem? These are all great solutions, right? One or two of these could be a helpful supplement to comprehensive board management software, but relying entirely on these disparate measures becomes a mess.
Did the board admin store the last minutes in her Google Docs or Dropbox? The governance committee chair accidentally hit “reply all” and now someone on the staff sees confidential performance reviews of the CEO. Digital duct tape works well... until it doesn’t. Today’s solution could be tomorrow’s mess.
It’s understandable how organizations start out relying on digital duct tape, but it isn’t a long-term solution. Board management software is the most professional and efficient fix.
2. Don’t Pay for What You Don’t Need
Digital bloat isn’t only a barrier to adoption; it also impacts the bottom-line. Do you really need to pay hundreds of extra dollars each month for digital signatures that you use a few times a year? This is one simple piece of digital duct tape that is efficient, free and easy to use as an accessory app to your main board management software.
If you can manage all your communication, document storage and meeting planning in one portal, eliminating the cost of features like digital signatures that you only occasionally use, makes sense.
Large, unwieldy board management software programs offer expensive features that are sometimes not only unnecessary, but risky to have. Two prime examples are live document updating ability and private chat features.
Boards of directors have a duty to keep accurate records and guard against ethical gray areas. Some legacy board software companies charge premium fees for the ability of multiple people to simultaneously edit the same document. That might be helpful for a business presentation, but it is a nightmare for legal record keeping.
NGOs also have an obligation to preserve transparency. Chat features are common in board software behemoths, but they are a huge liability for nonprofits. The perfect recipe for ethical disaster is the ability to alter documents simultaneously and then have a private chat about it!
3. Too Many Features Lead to Poor Adoption by Board Members
There’s always the temptation when shopping for software that “more is better.” It makes sense at first, right? If you’re paying for something, you might as well get every single bell and whistle in existence. Unfortunately, that line of thinking ignores one critical element: human nature. Adopting new board software can be a bit of a cultural hurdle. People are often resistant to change and unknowns, and technology can magnify this tendency.
Picture your typical board member. They are likely established in their career and community, which means they are probably both very busy and at an age that might not be a “digital native.” Software solutions with so many features that they require hours and hours of training might solicit a hard “no” from board members out of the gate. A long list of extraordinary features is useless if your board members won’t use the tool. Don’t let feature overload hamstring your efforts to make your board more efficient.
When shopping for board management software, it’s important to give real consideration to what amount of digital duct tape is acceptable, how much board members are willing to learn, what features are actually needed and what any “extras” will cost. Try a software review site to compare your needs with costs, and take full advantage of free trials offered by most software providers. With careful consideration and research, a better board member experience is within reach.
Jeb Banner is the founder and CEO of Boardable, a nonprofit board management software provider. He is also the founder of two nonprofits, The Speak Easy and Musical Family Tree, as well as a board member of United Way Central Indiana and ProAct. Jeb is based in Indianapolis, Ind.
Boardable is an online board management portal that centralizes communication, document storage, meeting planning and everything else that goes into running a board of directors.