For a nonprofit board to effectively fulfill its fiduciary duties, members should be fully informed. But as many nonprofit staff will cite, you can provide board members with all the written information possible and it doesn't mean anything will be read.
What to do? I heard an idea today that I'd would like to build upon as one idea for ensuring a nonprofit board better able to make decisions reflective of being more fully informed. The idea I heard was the distribution of an e-survey. THe survey requires the board member to at least review their materials in order to answer each question.
Part of me says, wow, that's a great idea for ensuring members have some idea about what's in their materials. The other part of me says, whoa, how onerous can it get? So let's take this idea to another level. What about taking a format from NPR's Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me and distributes a survey that asks key questions with three possible answers and of course the correct answer if the incorrect answer is filled-in? Wait, Wait has a particularly entertaining approach to learning about what is happening around us and I'm thinking that maybe this approach could be used for other purposes.
Yes, this would be an effort for staff but perhaps this effort would actually reduce the amount of "need to know" of board members, move staff to really understand what are the key governance issues, and ensure that members are prepared to fulfill their fiduciary function.