The fundamental difference between leading a for-profit organisation and that of a non-profit organisation can be distilled in this sentence: For-profit boards seek to create and enhance shareholder value, while nonprofit boards focus on creating public value. At the outset, these two types of organisations, and their boards, seem to have little in common.
But the reality is that both these boards rely on the same pillars of success, i.e., good governance, compliance, accountability to stakeholders, the ability to adapt to change, and the strategic use of technology.
The similarities between for-profit boards and nonprofit boards are worth a second look, especially when it comes to the adoption and use of (board) technology. In particular, we focus on the use of a board portal. There might be the notion that only for-profit organisations derive value from board portal software, but that’s simply not the case.
Nevertheless, it is worthwhile to identify the concerns nonprofit boards may have when it comes to using a board portal application. While these may seem valid, there are concrete benefits that directly speak to — and address — these reservations.
FIVE BENEFIT CONSIDERATIONS FOR USING A BOARD PORTAL
CONCERN 1 : Board portals are cost-prohibitive.
POINTS TO CONSIDER: The Return on Investment (ROI) on the use of board portal solutions is not only qualitative in nature (e.g.. impact on good governance, risk mitigation, efficiency gains), but can also be quantified.
A board portal, such as Praxonomy, eliminates the use of paper for all board-related information and activities. The savings generated from going paperless often justifies the cost of utilising a board portal.
For example, the process of creating board packs (or board books) for board and committee meetings, is associated with costs. There is the material cost of paper, printing expenses, labour fees, courier and delivery fees.
With board portal software, digital board packs can be created, compiled, and distributed in a matter of minutes, rather than hours, days, or weeks. Revisions to board packs need not undergo another iteration of manual printing, compiling and distribution, all of which compound cost. Labour hours are also spent on value-driven tasks.
This “Paperless Savings Calculator” estimates the financial savings of using Praxonomy’s paperless technology.
Praxonomy also has the “Praxonomy for Nonprofits” initiative, which offers eligible nonprofit organisations free subscriptions to the platform. A program like this aids nonprofit organisations to overcome technological cost barriers.
CONCERN 2: Board portals require an investment in training and onboarding.
POINTS TO CONSIDER: Most board portals are intuitive and easy to implement. They are designed to require minimal user training, allowing for immediate productivity gains.
Onboarding is also seamless, requiring little or no individual user configurations, especially for cloud-based board portal services.
While training, implementation, and support are typically included in the upfront costs, administrators and board members tend to discover — on their own — that many board portal features, such as messaging, meeting scheduling, and task assignments, often mirror the functionalities found in other widely-used external applications.
Board portals tend to have self-service resources (such as comprehensive user guides) that are accessible from within the tool. Some offer around-the-clock customer support for end-users as soon as subscription to the solution commences — ensuring technological issues are immediately addressed.
CONCERN 3: Board portal solutions need to be trustworthy and secure.
POINTS TO CONSIDER: Cybersecurity is an area that many board portals take seriously.
Nonprofit boards often deal with financial, funding, or identifiable donor information. A data breach at the board level could be disastrous from a reputational standpoint. This can significantly affect the nonprofit organisation’s fundraising initiatives, and hamper its ability to meet its mission and objectives — including the recruitment of future leaders and volunteers.
To address these valid concerns, board portals place a premium on security considerations. Praxonomy is one of them.
For instance, all documents and data are encrypted at all times, in transit and at rest, on Praxonomy. In addition, Praxonomy is ISO27001 certified, the international gold standard in information security management.
With these protocols in place, the protection of board-sensitive information is ensured.
(Read more about Praxonomy’s commitment to security here.)
As for security within the application, some board portals offer granular access permissions. This means that administrators are able to manage user accounts, delegate specific rights, and assign roles and permissions. Board members are granted access to information that is pertinent and relevant to them.
The use of a board portal also eliminates the need for emailing board data amongst board members. With built-in messaging functionalities, the board portal is a closed-loop messaging environment. This mitigates the risk associated with phishing attacks, malware and/or viruses, and human errors (i.e. unintended recipient errors).
CONCERN 4: Board portals are more suitable for the productivity demands of for-profit organisations.
POINTS TO CONSIDER: Board portals can address both the simple and complex task-related demands of nonprofit boards.
Directors of nonprofit organisations are often volunteers and usually sit on a number of different boards. The efficient use of their time is paramount to the quality of leadership they offer.
How might board portals support nonprofit board members in the execution of their tasks?
Board portals are designed with all board activities in mind, from beginning to end, and in ways big and small.
For instance, they may have discussion forums and task assignment features that enable members to track, follow-up, and gather information on action items. This provides not only an audit trail, but also fosters a sense of accountability among board members. The work continues inside and outside of the boardroom — and in a transparent fashion.
As the nonprofit organisation grows and leadership demands become more complex, so does boardroom interaction amongst volunteer directors. There might be a need to contact, learn about, and engage with fellow board members. The presence of a member directory within the board portal helps facilitate this, without any need for intermediaries to provide individual contact (or background) information.
Apart from the features mentioned above (i.e. board pack creation, messaging functionalities, task-tracking, discussion forums, etc.), board portals become a “single source of truth” for board-related data.
Its function as a central repository for board-related information minimises the time-consuming task of organising and compiling board data. Directors don’t have to sift through emails to find the files or documents they need.
In addition, board portals like Praxonomy are cloud-based. With an Internet connection, directors can access information from any geographic location on any device that has a web browser. This enables remote and timely access to information, regardless of where one might be.
CONCERN 5: The use of board portals and their impact on good governance remains unclear.
POINTS TO CONSIDER: Board portals enable nonprofit boards to actively collaborate, engage, and focus on the strategic delivery of their mission.
An engaged, collaborative board paves the way for good governance.
As the benefits mentioned above illustrate, boards are not only made efficient, but also are more effective. The directors’ time is best spent on transparent, accountable, creative thought-leadership as opposed to spending hours on the organisation of information, mitigating security risks, or honing in on administrative minutiae. The board can focus on mission-critical tasks, such as crafting strategic fundraising initiatives.
The use of a board portal solution directly addresses the needs of nonprofit boards.
Nonprofit organisations can justify the adoption of this technology not only in terms of a “Return on Investment”, but also on a “Return on Value” — be it from a financial, operational, productivity, security, and good governance standpoint.
Find out how Praxonomy can help your nonprofit board. Contact us today.