The Eugene and Agnes E. Meyer Foundation pursues and invests in solutions that build an equitable Greater Washington in which economically disadvantaged people thrive. The organization uses all its resources, networks, and voice to advance its vision of a just, connected, and inclusive community in which systemic racism and its consequences no longer exist.
To prepare for quarterly board meetings and other committee meetings, Melody Fitzgerald, Manager of Executive Office and Governance, compiled digital files, took them to a local printer, placed tabs in the binders, and then coordinated courier services to deliver the board books. Frequently, Melody’s time was consumed by organizing and preparing for board meetings, often taking more than three days just for board book production. Printing costs averaged nearly $800 per meeting for the 12 member board and five committees(Executive, Finance, Governance, Investment, and Audit). Often last-minute changes to content required reprints and replacements – either before the books were delivered or taking up time in the actual meetings. Courier costs alone averaged about $400 per meeting.
In 2012, the Foundation moved all its grantmaking processes paperless. Since the bulk of the board book is related to the grant-making process, it seemed strange to take the original digital information and turn it into print. The Meyer Foundation attempted to solve the challenge that this overwhelming amount of paper presented by moving to emails and PDFs. This immediately raised security concerns, placed a burden on the directors, and ultimately left the board printing their own books.
This experience led the Foundation to rule out email and other online tools like Google Drive or Dropbox for distribution. The Foundation began looking for a digital solution. They knew they needed to choose wisely to ensure the change would be well received and adopted. “We needed a solution to be 100% intuitive so that the board would actually use it,” says Fitzgerald. At the same time, the Technology Affinity Group, a non-profit membership organization that promotes the power of technology to advance the goals of the philanthropic sector, released a book comparing board portals where they began evaluating providers. As they assessed their options, OnBoard stood out as easily understandable, cost-effective, and secure.
The Foundation selected OnBoard, and in 2015 began the process of introducing it to their board members. Through a series of email communications and training sessions, the board was prepared to begin using the new portal. As board members became more comfortable with the software, Fitzgerald continued to print meeting materials upon request. During those first several months, board members were offered training resources and one-on-one help so that when it was announced there would no longer be an option to have their board book printed for them, they would be ready.
“We wanted our board members to be as comfortable as possible before removing the printed option altogether. Today, all board members start with the digital portal from day one. We offer training, but it’s so intuitive that most new board members don’t really need it,” says Fitzgerald.
The Foundation’s vision for OnBoard extends beyond just board books and preparing for meetings. A resource section was created to provide board members more information at their fingertips with quick access to information like bylaws, policies, and committee information. Operating as a ‘home page’ for board members to quickly access information, the resource center is a secure and confidential way to share information that the board can leverage while networking in the community.
What once took three days to pull together, now takes an hour. Printing and courier costs have been eliminated: from $800 a meeting to $0. The Foundation estimates a cost savings of about $10,000 annually between labor costs, printing, and courier fees for its quarterly board meetings and five annual committee meetings.
“OnBoard is the backbone that allows us to focus on our work and use our brainpower to further our organization rather than worrying about where and how to find information,” said Fitzgerald. “We’ve been taking the board in a new strategic direction over the last few years. I cannot imagine doing that without OnBoard. Everything is in one place and a board member never has to worry about having what they need, as it travels with them.”
“It also allows us to be more cost-conscious and communicate better to our 26 board and committee members. We are a scrappy organization and we’re always looking for ways to provide more information. OnBoard has been instrumental in allowing us to do that up until the final minutes before a meeting,” Fitzgerald continued.
“The portal has been helpful in not only creating efficiencies for staff, but also in giving board members more control of and access to board information. It’s hard to imagine life without it!” says Nicky Goren, President and CEO at the Meyer Foundation.
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.