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5 Tips for Training Nonprofit Board Members

best practices board finances foundation Dec 21, 2023

     Today is the final installment in a four-part series on financial literacy for your nonprofit board. This week,  I want to share with you how to implement that training and offer the encouragement your board needs. In the previous lessons, I’ve shared how to assess the current financial literacy of your board members individually.  If you’ve missed any of the topics in this financial literacy series, you can find them here.  The previous topics in this series lay the foundation for today’s lesson on how to actually implement financial literacy training in a way that connects and grows your board members. Here are the main steps in the process of training your board. 

Identify Your Audience

     If you’ve assessed the financial literacy of each board member (as described in this lesson), you will have a good indication of how many people on your board need this training. That should help you choose the format that's best. If it's just one person needing training, you may want to offer a format that's recorded so it can be access as needed. On the other hand, if 90% of your board needs this training, I’d recommend taking the time to cover these topics in person at a board meeting. Identifying your audience prepares you for the next step in this process. 

Choose the Format

     Next, you’ll want to consider the best format for your audience. Do you need an interactive format in which board members are hands on with reports, engaging in conversations, and asking one another questions? You may have experienced and inexperienced or confident and not so confident board members when it comes to finance. You might want to partner them up to learn in a way that's very interactive and side by side. On the other hand, sometimes a more one-way instructional presentation format could be a good option, depending on your circumstances. 

Additional Format Considerations

  • Presenter:  Who should deliver the content to the board? Would a guest speaker be helpful? Would it be better to have an existing staff member or board member present the information? 
  •  Recording: As I mentioned earlier, you can store the training in a recorded library for those who may be new to the board, or when you have a situation where there's only one or two board members that really need the information. Then you can make that information available on demand. 
  •  Mentoring: Depending on the size of your board, you could have a situation where you link up those interactive relationships to partner a board member who's really strong on the program side with a board member who's really strong on the administration and finance side of the nonprofit. You may want to connect board members in relational partnerships like this,  and give them opportunities to spend some time discussing, evaluating, and transferring what they know and sharing how they like to serve your nonprofit. 

Make it Relevant

     It’s so important to make your board member training relevant. Use real life examples. Apply the principles that are being taught to your organization. This is a great time to tell the financial stories-  tell the history of the organization's finances. I have found that so many times, this awareness of  financial history is lost. But, the greatest testimony of what is possible is oftentimes the history of what has happened. So, when we tell those stories and make the financial principles of the nonprofit relevant to the board members, it can inspire hope and engagement for what's ahead.

     Be sure to use visual aids. You may have slides or live reports that board members are able to annotate, circle, and highlight. You’ll also want to give them a handout as well. Give them something that they can write on. If you have a culture of not letting reports circulate in print, then by all means, collect them back after you’re finished. But remember that if people can touch and see and experience things, they're more likely to remember what they've learned.

Create a Learning Culture

     I can’t overestimate the importance of creating a learning culture. You're probably thinking by now, “Terisa, if we did all these trainings you're talking about, we would do nothing except talk about finances!” I'm aware of that, and that's a good point. But, let's start somewhere! Maybe you set a goal to do one of these trainings. In my last lesson, we talked about the types of trainings you might do. Do one of them a year. That might be better than what you're doing now. Do one of those training topics per year, record them, and make them available in your board library so that they can be revisited as needed.

Cultivate Openness

     Finally, I want to encourage you to cultivate openness and conversation so board members can ask anything that they need or want to. But also have fun! Have fun looking at the finances of the organization. Nonprofit finance doesn’t have to be sad and mundane. Sure, there are seasons when it feels that way. But, you can still have fun growing together. Have fun learning and serving your nonprofit! 

     This was the final topic in a four-part series. If you want to make sure you don't miss my future content when its published, then you can sign up to receive my weekly financial tips in your inbox by clicking here. I’d love to keep these tips in your inbox so you don't miss one. 

If you have any topic suggestions, send me a note here. I'd love to hear from you!

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