From lesser-known associations like the Clowns of America International to the National Association of Realtors — there’s a professional association for just about anything, and most are governed by boards.
In fact, more than 1.5 million associations and nonprofits reside in the U.S., according to the Center for Association Leadership (ASAE), commonly referred to as the “Association of Associations.” And similar to other organizations, businesses, and government agencies, professional associations rely on boards to manage budgets, oversee personnel, and ensure initiatives align with the organization’s mission and values.
Also similar to other boards, professional associations quickly become overwhelmed by the tedious process of assembling board books and materials, communicating the timely information to board members, and inspiring members to review materials in advance so they arrive fully informed and ready to engage. It’s exceptionally burdensome for executive administrators, who typically plan months in advance, yet often need to make last-minute changes to agendas and other key documents.
In order to lessen the organizational and administrative burden, streamline processes, simplify communication, and enhance security, many professional associations choose to ditch paper board assets in favor of digital board management solutions.
Board management software, including OnBoard’s ASAE-endorsed board management portal, provides an essential tool for improving security, making boards more effective, and increasing meeting efficiency. Consider some of these in-demand features of best-in-class board governance software for professional associations.
Board Management Software Enables Virtual Meetings, Remote Work
Prior to March 2020, virtual meetings and remote work were mostly luxuries and conveniences. But when the global pandemic set in, virtual meetings became a necessity. To keep meeting face to face, most organizations—including boards—turned to video conferencing software, notably Zoom.
A modern board management platform, especially one with a direct Zoom integration, makes it seamless for board members to virtually meet face to face. With a Zoom integration, board members and directors can launch the meeting live stream from the board portal with a single tap, and never need to navigate to a separate application or platform. It significantly reduces the chance of user error (and wasted time), while it keeps meetings running smoothly.
In 2020, OnBoard became the first board management software platform to natively integrate Zoom into its board portal, a strategic move that made an immediate impact for the board at ASAE.
“There were other organizations struggling with how to incorporate Zoom early on, but we didn’t,” says Reggie Henry, ASAE’s Chief Information and Engagement Officer. “Our board members had a link right there in OnBoard. They clicked on the link and were right in the meeting. They didn’t even have to change devices. That seamlessness of experience was a really big deal.”
A Digital Board Replaces Paper-Based Materials
Similar to how virtual meetings replaced in-person events, a board management solution for professional associations moves all of your content and assets to the cloud, eliminating the need for paper-based board books completely.
Aside from the immediate cost savings associated with going paperless, what does this mean for associations?
For one, eliminating paper removes the labor-intensive efforts of creating board books and other paper-based collateral each quarter. It also lessens the burden for board administrators, who can make agenda updates and other changes in real time instead of reprinting new versions. Moving away from paper also improves version control, so the board always has the most up-to-date and accurate information.
Deborah Gibson, office manager at the Ontario Chiropractic Association, says the decision for the association to switch from a paper-based model to a digital board solution made an instant impact on optimizing efficiencies and cost-savings.
“I would run off 25 copies, collate them into binders, and then have the books delivered by courier to all board members,” Deborah recalls. “Depending on the meetings, some board books were a few hundred pages. They could be quite voluminous. Between the time lost and the expense of the paper and the couriers, it was all quite costly.”
A Single Source of Truth for Board Governance
Two-thirds of association boards mandate term limits — typically two consecutive, three-year terms — which makes turnover inevitable. When a board adds a new member or director, they need to quickly bring the person up to speed. Maintaining continuity becomes critical, and a digital board management solution serves as a single source of truth for all board resources and materials, past and present. New members can review meeting notes and see how the board voted on previous agenda items, so they hit the ground running from day one.
Another advantage to storing all board documents, resources, and communications in a single source of truth — instead of multiple disparate channels — means you can access email, text, cloud storage platforms, and PDF readers all within your digital board management hub, making communication and information recall easier.
A centralized board portal also enhances security since sensitive board materials all reside in a single hub, and not in multiple silos, each with their own unique endpoint vulnerabilities. It reduces the chances of confidential materials, including financial information, performance metrics, personnel records, and other association data leaking out to competitors or the general public.
Meet the Board from Anywhere, On Any Device
Some board solutions, including OnBoard’s virtual board management solution for professional associations, offer functionality to consume board materials, vote on board matters, and attend board meetings remotely, via smartphones, tablets, and wearable technology. Similar to how these capabilities were formerly thought of as conveniences, they’re now make-or-break features to keep meetings running efficiently and effectively in today’s widely distributed world.
Mobile-first design and remote work capabilities also make it easier to recruit new board members from a wider range of locations and geographies, which can improve association board composition by diversifying the board’s experience, point of view, and background. According to OnBoard’s 2021 Board Effectiveness Survey of 300 board administrators, executives, and directors from six countries, nearly half (48%) said increasing board diversity is a serious strategic priority with specific actions planned.
About The Author
- At OnBoard, we believe board meetings should be informed, effective, and uncomplicated. That’s why we give boards and leadership teams an elegant solution that simplifies governance. With customers in higher education, nonprofit, health care systems, government, and corporate enterprise business, OnBoard is the leading board management provider.