Four Questions Only You Can Answer: The Truth About Board Training

board development and revitalization inquiry and transparency oversight and accountability: measurement the board/ceo partnership Nov 28, 2022
The truth about board training.


When we started Better Boards. Better Communities. we consulted widely with Chief Executive Officers, Executive Directors, Board Chairs and Board members, new and experienced. We conducted focus groups across the continent and followed up with one-on-one discussions. We knew what was needed, what was wanted, how it was to be delivered and at what cost.


Or so we thought.


As with most studies of continuing education, what people say and what people do, are two very different things. Indeed a few years ago, when I conducted a needs assessment for a major association of not-for-profit trustees, members said they wanted more training in diversity and inclusion. When we asked them in follow-up studies what kept them up at night, the result was quite different --  it was financial literacy, their accountability, their stewardship, their lack of knowledge of all things financial….


I should have known better.


So this time I thought I would consult with other players in our sandbox – associations and agencies engaged in providing training for not-for-profit board members and leaders. Were their members responding? Should we be doing something different? Could we collaborate for better results?


Bottom line: none of us are in this business for the money. Like the not-for-profits that we work with, we want to have an impact on the quality of life that people experience in their communities.


So, here are some of the issues from this round of inquiry. What is your take? Does this sum up the state-of-affairs? Are you surprised? Insulted? Give us your thoughts in our brief survey. (Complete the survey before December 15, 2022 to be entered to win a year of free training for your board!)


As one respondent said, “that's a good and big question you have, and I have no answer.” But then went on to provide one.


The consensus was stated by one respondent:

Even in our project, we have to work very, very hard for any kind of pickup. The number of people who are participating is lower than we expected across all regions, and the amount of work required to hustle them into the virtual workshops - which are free and stay very tightly to the 90-minute mark - is significant.


Here are some of the thoughts on this issue, really just best guesses based on extensive experience by leaders in board governance.


  1. Executive Directors definitely do have mixed feelings in many cases about their boards. Some actively hate that a board even exists, and others want to control their boards. So the concept of building a stronger board gets viewed by them as putting boards even more into an operational mode (even though that isn't the case, that is how they perceive it anyway), and they are not supportive. Of course, just the opposite is true…


  1. It's the rare not-for-profit that keeps any information about its board members publicly available on the website. Hence, the approach always has to be through the reluctant Executive Director, rather than through the board directly. When you have mixed feelings about your board, the information may simply not get shared. But also, the ED is juggling a thousand balls and putting out fires in all directions, so even just having any time to think about board training and getting that email message or package to the board is a low priority.


  1. Spending any money on board training is not only uncommon in the sector, but it's also too often viewed as a "waste" of resources that could have been spent on programs/services. Many suspect that boards share that view too. The result is that there's no culture of spending anything on board training and not much money to do it anyway.


  1. Boards receive so little training that they may not realize they need it. They may not know how best to bring this up with the rest of their board peers, or even if they should get involved in trying to promote it. So that means one has to identify someone on each board who is confident enough to act as a kind of champion. And that is a very hard person to identify when you are coming from the outside. 

Who else needs to read this? Share this article with your friends and colleagues!



As one concluded:

We are doing a lot of advance work to flush out the right contacts, and reach out via email, phone, and now even direct mail. It has been a struggle at every step.


And of course:

So if you find the solution, please let us know too!


Board development is critical to high performance.

Chief Executive Officers say they want high-performing boards. But do they?

Boards need development but how would they know if they have no expertise in governance as leadership?

Not-for-profits are committed to transparency and accountability but rarely are their names or contact information, without going through staff, readily available to the public. Hello?

There is no money for board development, but the Board is the employer, approves the budget and provides funding for professional and staff development for the organization. No money for them? What is wrong with this picture?


A complex problem for sure. But apparently we at Better Boards. Better Communities. are not alone in identifying the problem and seeking to address it.


Please do join us! Give us your feedback in this brief survey

(Complete the survey before December 15, 2022 to be entered to win a year of free training for your board!)




Don't Delay! Get the Training You Need to Make an Impact!

Online Training Programs with Ken Haycock


The Board Leader Academy:

A step-by-step guide to higher performance and impact.

Our spotlight course is designed for CEOs/Executive Directors, Board Chairs, and those who are interested in leadership positions on not-for-profit, for-impact boards. Six weeks. Three brief video lessons with handouts per week (watch at your convenience) plus additional downloadable resources. 30-day money-back guarantee.

Register now.     



The Board Member 101:

Your accelerated path to competence and confidence.

In this one-month course, you will move from feeling reticent and tentative to competent and confident, asking good questions and making great contributions. The course complements and reinforces your on-site orientation and opens new channels of communication and discussion. Four weeks. Two brief video lessons (watch at your convenience) per week plus downloadable handouts. 30-day money-back guarantee.

Register Now.



 P.S. May I ask a tiny favour? Would you mind sharing this blog with one person? I would love it. You can post the links in your Facebook Groups, LinkedIn or even send an email.



Share this post:

Stay connected with news and updates!

Join our mailing list to receive the latest news and updates from our team. 

Don't worry, your information will not be shared or sold for any reason.