Nonprofit Board Communications
The advent of new forms of telecommunications - teleconferencing, emails, texting - have changed communication options and abilities for nonprofit boards and their officers. It is important to have communications practices that retain the proper functioning and deliberative nature of nonprofit boards so that they can carry out their legal responsibilities.
 General Board Communications
- Use email to inform, not debate. If any director tries to express opinions on potentially controversial issues via email, encourage them to bring their comments to the next formal meeting. Do not allow email debates.
- Discourage texting as a tool for board work. While it can be useful to inform like email, it creates many challenges for a good deliberative process. When a majority of the directors is “device-addicted,” it may be necessary to ban smart phones from meetings. Still, it is always best to ask for, and expect good behavior before mandating that behavior.
 Board Communication Best Practices
Suggested best practices for nonprofit board communications:
- Email should only be used to inform.
- When a decision must be made between meetings, call a special session, or if your bylaws allow, have the executive committee meet and decide – do not vote by email. The only exception to this rule would be voting on something like a resolution to open a bank account where time is of the essence and the likelihood of debate is minimal. However, it may take more time to get a unanimous consent vote with email than to just meet the legal way.
- Using email to express opinions on contentious issues should never be allowed.
- No director should instruct the CEO to take action via email without the vote of the board authorizing such direction. Directors can email the CEO to request information.
- No texting or emailing should occur during board meetings.
 More Information
More Information on these Nonprofit Board Communication Best Practices
The author of this article is Dennis McMillian.
Dennis McMillian is President and CEO of the Foraker Group.
Dennis has devoted his professional career to helping nonprofit organizations better meet the needs of their communities. For 21 years he served as a development officer, and then as a CEO with United Way in numerous communities around the country. He came to Alaska in 1992 to lead the United Way of Anchorage. Since moving to Alaska, he has helped build the state’s philanthropic infrastructure through his work with United Ways across the state and through his support in developing the Alaska Community Foundation. He is a strong advocate for Alaska’s nonprofit sector.
In 2001, Dennis led the effort to start The Foraker Group with the mission of building sustainability and organizational capacity in Alaska nonprofits. During his career, he’s trained thousands of professionals and volunteers, spoken at numerous conferences and consulted across America, Canada, Asia and Russia. He serves on numerous national nonprofit committees and is a regular speaker at conferences including The Council on Foundations, Tides Foundation, Philanthropy Northwest, and the National Council of Nonprofits. He sits on the board of Nature Conservancy in Alaska, and on the national boards for Camp Fire, Inc., the Alliance for Nonprofit Management, and the National Council of Nonprofits.