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How To Future-Proof Your Board

Organizations who didn’t “future-proof” their boards were caught off-guard last year, especially those that neglected to make a digital transition across different business lines once the global disaster unfolded.  There is no better example of this than today’s pandemic crisis that forced nonprofits to work overtime and correct digital deficiencies to survive.

Preparing for a crisis is just one reason an organization must embody an innovative ethos: to run more efficiently, attract investors and new partnerships and boost the brand overall, to name a few.  But why does it always seem like the lowest priority?

“Organizations can be overburdened with agendas that address a litany of current issues so it can seem lofty to invest time and money in issues or projects that ‘haven’t happened yet’,” said Lisa Anne Thompson Taylor, CEO of Board Veritas, a board governance and training firm based in Washington, DC.

Here are 5 ways you can “future-proof” your board:

It Starts with An Evaluation

Without an outside perspective, your board will stay focused inward and follow a steady path towards… obsolescence.  First, ask your board to take a quick Board Veritas survey on what they define as “innovative” and how they can see it being applied to the nonprofit model.

“…directors often lack the courage to objectively evaluate their make-up and determine if they have the right skills and perspectives around the table. Many Boards are focusing too much on “the rear view mirror” and not enough on the road ahead.” The HR Director

Board Veritas advisors can help.

Find Way to Encourange Leaders To Think Innovatively

At each board meeting, invite a current or past board member to propose a concept that might be considered too progressive.  Encourage the team to brainstorm on how it could actually work now. Look for recent articles in the news (Fast Company)

Look Outside the Board for Inspiration

As board members to bring sources from articles and other resources to discuss or invite a speaker to present to your board who you believe has helped make a difference in your industry.  

Implement a Future-directed Recruitment Process

Board and executive recruitment is the standard for building an innovative board and that alone can make or break it. The right mix of people is absolutely essential for any organization to move forward and will determine the board’s trajectory speed.  You might consider a Chief Innovation Officer or new executives that have a proven record of implementing innovation.

“Innovation leads to a board culture of inquiry, engagement and continuous learning that will be critical for organizations surviving, adapting and thriving in a post pandemic world,” says Signe Bell, a Board Veritas advisor. “Our systems have been disrupted at every level and we must bring our absolute best to the boardroom to reimagine and achieve mission success.”

Dial Up Board Diversity

NACD suggests a deliberative approach to recruitment is the best way to “ensure (boards) have the relevant demographic and experiential diversity they need—in terms of gender, age, ethnicity, industry, geography, and other areas. Done right, such a process provides access to desirable candidates with needed skills and experience who may not yet be highly visible in their careers or, consequently, on the board’s radar.

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