Board development is the process of providing board members with training and resources to improve the performance and effectiveness of each director and, ultimately, of the entire organization.

In this article, we will explore tips and best practices for creating a successful board development plan. There’s also a nonprofit board development plan template you can download and fulfill according to your unique board needs.

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Why is board development important?

A well-developed board of directors can bring numerous benefits to an organization, while a poorly developed board may pose significant risks.

Here are the seven most important reasons to invest in board development:

  1. It clarifies the board’s roles and responsibilities. Clarifying board member duties ensures that the board has a clear vision of its responsibilities and obligations and can provide sufficient governance and strategic guidance to the organization. 
  2. It builds a united board team. Team-building exercises, facilitated discussions, and training sessions that focus on enhancing communication, collaboration, and problem-solving skills help to build trust and respect among the current members.
  3. It shows that the organization values ongoing improvement. By creating a culture of learning, organizations demonstrate they’re committed to supporting directors’ growth and development.
  4. It helps to motivate and retain good board members. When board members feel their contributions are valued and that their personal and professional development is being supported, they are more likely to remain engaged and committed to the organization.
  5. It improves performance. Board development enhances the knowledge, skills, and expertise of board members, which helps them make better decisions and provide more effective guidance and oversight, which ultimately results in improved organizational performance.
The responsibility for creating and implementing a nonprofit board development plan typically falls to the board of directors or the board development committee

5 steps to identify board development needs 

To ensure that each board member performs at their best, organizations should first identify their board development needs. Here are five key steps to do it:

  1. Conduct a board self-assessment. This can be done through a survey, interview, or other evaluation form. Board members can assess their own skills and competencies, as well as the overall effectiveness of the whole board.
  2. Request feedback from stakeholders. Gathering feedback from stakeholders such as staff, donors, and new and existing board members can help identify areas where the board can improve. Similarly to board self-assessment, this can be done through surveys or individual interviews.
  3. Conduct a skills audit. Determine which specific skill sets and expertise current board members bring to the board and compare those with the skills and expertise necessary for your organization to succeed. This can help identify a specific area, like finance, IT, or marketing, where your board could improve.
  4. Analyze board performance. You can create a policy indicating a minimum that board members are expected to contribute. This could include board meeting attendance, contributing to meeting discussions, participating in committee meetings, etc. After that, analyze the data and decide where improvements can be made.
  5. Review best practices and benchmarks for board governance. This can include reviewing governance models, board policies, and board evaluation processes, which can also help determine where your board is falling behind.

Based on the results of the assessments and analysis, a board of directors development plan can be created to address the identified development needs. The plan should outline specific goals and activities that will be undertaken to improve the board’s skills, knowledge, and effectiveness.

Key components of a board development plan

Find the main elements of a board member development plan below in the table.

Key components of a board development plan

Developing a plan for board development is a time-consuming task that requires careful implementation. To simplify and facilitate this process, it’s recommended to use board portals — secure platforms for sharing confidential documents, conducting online board meetings, and tracking progress on various tasks.

5 steps to evaluate board development progress

Here’s a 5-step algorithm on how to evaluate a board development strategic plan progress and make sure only effective board members work for your company:

  1. Set clear goals and objectives. Define the goals and objectives of your board development plan. These goals should be measurable, achievable, and aligned with the organization’s mission.
  2. Collect data. Collect data on the progress of the board development plan. This can include fellow board members’ evaluations, surveys, annual reviews, board self-assessments, and stakeholder feedback.
  3. Analyze the data. Use various metrics for measuring success, including board composition (gender, ethnicity, and professional background), engagement (participation of individual board members in meetings and other activities), and training (attendance at conferences, workshops, and board retreats).
  4. Report findings. Report findings to the board and relevant stakeholders. Share successes and challenges, and make recommendations for improvements.
  5. Adjust the plan. Use the findings from the evaluation to adjust the nonprofit board development plan. If necessary, revise goals, change strategies, and adjust timelines. Also, keep the board and stakeholders informed of any changes.

Board development plan template

Here’s a nonprofit board development plan example in a form of a table:

nonprofit board development plan example

The table above is just one example of how a board development plan can be organized and tracked. Depending on the needs and goals of your business, it may look different or contain different elements.

To help you get started, has prepared a universal nonprofit board development plan template that you can use to help your organization achieve its goals.

Key takeaways

Let’s summarize the most important points from the guide:

  • Benefits of ongoing board development efforts are clarified board roles and responsibilities, improved board performance, and engaged and motivated board members.
  • The main steps to identify board development needs are a board self-assessment, feedback from stakeholders, a skills audit, and a board performance analysis.
  • Strategies for ongoing board development include recruiting board members, providing board orientation and training, conducting regular board assessments, and leveraging technology to track and measure board performance.

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What to expect from a board development plan?

A development plan for non-profit boards typically outlines specific tasks and activities that should be undertaken to strengthen the performance and effectiveness of the board and ensure the organization’s success.

What does board development include?

It typically includes recruitment, assessment of the board’s performance, orientation and training of new board members, ongoing support and recognition of the board members, and board succession planning.

How often should board development activities be conducted?

Board development activities should be conducted on a regular basis. This can include holding quarterly or yearly board development retreats, conducting annual refresher training, and establishing an ongoing board education program.

How can we measure the success of our board development efforts?

Use annual reviews, board self-assessments, peer evaluations, staff surveys, and stakeholder feedback and evaluate the board’s effectiveness in terms of meeting its goals, addressing the organization’s needs, and making progress.

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Jesus Rivas Marketing strategist
Jesus Rivas is an accomplished marketing strategist with a strong focus on the niche of board portals. With over 8 years of experience in the industry, he has honed his skills in creating effective marketing strategies that help organizations achieve their goals.

Jesus develops and executes marketing strategies, approves content plans, conducts marketing research, and coordinates content creators. His extensive knowledge of board portals and their objectives has been pivotal to the platform's success, enabling her to attract and retain a loyal user base.
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