If you’re reading Idealware’s blog, I’m guessing you’re curious about technology and how it can make your organization better. Does your board share that curiosity? In a breakout session at the 2017 Nonprofit Technology Conference, Jeanne Allen and I facilitated a conversation about technology and nonprofit boards. One thing we tackled was how to increase the tech quotient on a board.

The way I see it there are only two ways to do it. Either you work with what you’ve got and nudge current board members along or replace them with more tech savvy folks.

Let’s start with replacement. I’m not saying you should kick the tech laggards off your board (assuming they are making strong contributions in other areas), but as attrition naturally occurs, purposely seek out people who are comfortable with technology-enabled collaboration and who are willing to experiment. How might you find them?

  • State in the posting or position description that you are looking for these traits.
  • Ask current board members and your network to recommend candidates who are strong on tech.
  • Use the desired technology during the recruitment and selection process. For example, if you use Dropbox for document sharing, ask them to share their resume with you via Dropbox rather than emailing it to you. If you want to conduct virtual meetings via Zoom, then use Zoom to conduct the interviews.
  • Ask a question in the interview process to determine tech skills or attitudes. For example, you might ask, “Please tell me about a time when you had to learn a new technology tool. What was difficult about that? How did you go about learning it?” Listen for whether the candidate is enthusiastic or resentful toward the new tool.

What about the board members you already have? In our breakout session, Jeanne brought up a great point about leading role change: for change to occur, either the current situation has to become less desirable, or the future has to become more desirable. Or both. A few ways this might take shape with boards and technology include:

  • Pointing out the downside of using outmoded tools, such as confusion over which document is the most recent version.
  • Highlighting dissonance with organizational values such as inclusion, innovation, or being environmentally sensitive.
  • Cutting off access to old tools or making it less convenient to use them.
  • Drawing attention to the benefits of using new technology.
  • Creating a learning culture by recognizing and thanking board members for trying something new or suggesting ways to use technology.

Most likely you will be using a combination of these approaches. Along with putting the right people in place and discovering the best ways to motivate them, you’ll also need to think through what technology to use with your board and how to train people to use those tools. To cover these and other related issues, Jeanne and I are reuniting on April 12 for a webinar called Tech, Cloud, and Collaboration for Nonprofit Boards. Register online if you’d like to join us, or add your questions and suggestions about technology and boards below in the comments section.