a nonprofit leader (ED/CEO), it can be difficult when members of the Board of
Directors aren’t familiar with or knowledgeable about the overall operations of
the organization—especially since the board is the governing body of the
nonprofit and their decisions directly impact how efficiently and effectively a
nonprofit can function. This can lead to some challenging conditions,
especially when decisions are made that aren’t in line with the nonprofit’s
mission or its strategic plan.
While you can’t compel board members to stay informed, many EDs/CEOs put together a monthly informational board packet before a board meeting to update their board members and keep them in the loop about the nonprofit’s ongoing activities. Now, I know many of you are saying, “I already really try to do that, but it’s not working!” Believe me, I hear you.
There’s nothing more exasperating than sending out your board packet with all of that great material, only to have board members ask for a copy of the packet when they arrive at the meeting. And as the meeting progresses, it can become obvious that some of the board members didn’t read the packet beforehand and aren’t prepared to make fully informed decisions. Without a clear, coherent path for the organization’s leader and staff to follow, frustration, burnout and lack of goal attainment may soon follow.
So . . . what’s a CEO/ED to do?
The nonprofit is competing for the attention of board members who, like many of us, are bombarded with information overload in their professional and personal lives. Take a page from the “less is more” concept of minimalism and do some “decluttering” for them by preparing a condensed, yet highly informative Executive Director/CEO Report (sometimes called an Executive Summary). You can send this to all board members separate from or along with the full board packet. A busy board member is much more likely to read an ED/CEO Report even if they don’t take time to review the complete packet.
Five Suggested Areas to Include in the CEO/ED Report:
- Updates on strategic goals: The organization’s strategic goals should guide the daily operations of your nonprofit, and board members should have a part in developing and maintaining these goals. Therefore, they need to know what’s going on each month that impacts aspects of the overall strategic goals. Give a brief report on activities that affected these goals each month.
- Financial overview: While a financial report should be given at each meeting, the organization leader could provide a brief summary of the primary facts and figures the board needs to know. This could include total expenses, income, and cash available at the end of each month, along with a summary of any recent fundraising activities and results.
- Updates on priority matters: Are you waiting for a big donation to arrive? Is there news about a tax or compliance issue? Include these announcements in a regular section of the report to keep the board updated.
- A connection to the mission: What has the organization done this month that highlights its mission? Who has been served, and where did you make an impact? Let the board know the good work associated with the nonprofit’s mission by sharing a member testimonial or short story to illustrate the positive activity.
- How can the board help: Many board members are happy to provide a helping hand if asked, but they often have no idea about what to do or how to provide support. Include a section suggesting ways the nonprofit could use the expertise of your board members. This could be as simple as reminding them to seek out new board members with particular skill sets, or requesting assistance on a specific volunteer task during the month.
conclusion, providing board members with a concise executive summary each month
can: (1) strengthen the communication between the CEO/ED, board members
and staff, and (2) enable board members to formulate more well-considered
decisions at board meetings. Conscientious board members need and should want
to know what’s happening in the organization. The monthly ED/CEO Report gives board members insights into daily nonprofit
activities, and highlights the hard work that the leadership and staff tackle
Resources for developing an ED/CEO Report for the Board of Directors:
How to Write a Good Board Report
Board Members Zoning Out? Stop Reading the CEO Report