Boards & Governance
Kezia Farnham Image
Kezia Farnham
Senior Manager

What is board management? Unlock the meaning for education, government & corporate boards

February 8, 2024
0 min read
Corporate board director holding a meeting representing board management

If modern organizations do nothing else, they must prioritize building a well-managed board. Whether it’s a school board, a government agency, or a conglomerate, the board is the foundation for everything that follows: success or failure, risk or opportunity. That begs the question: What is board management?

Though there are distinct differences between boards in education, government and corporations, there are also similarities. Understanding how to manage a board for one can reveal tools and tips that easily apply to the other two. Here, we’ll break down:

  • What board management is for corporate boards
  • How board management varies in education and government
  • Key resources for each type of board
  • The role of technology in effective board management

What is board management for corporations?

In corporations, board management is the practice of overseeing what the board does and how they do it. This responsibility spans the entire lifecycle of the board and its directors — from succession planning and recruitment to onboarding and continuing education.

Though board directors are typically experts in their own fields, that doesn’t mean they’re experts in the corporation they serve. Board management fills those gaps, blending directors’ unique skills and expertise with the corporation’s strategy to turn disparate directors into a well-oiled machine.

In this way, board management is inextricable from board effectiveness; the better managed a board is, the more effective it will be at setting a corporate strategy and taking the necessary steps to achieve it.

Resources for your corporate board:

  1. Analyze challenges and opportunities facing boards: The board of directors is indispensable, overseeing the organization and making critical strategic decisions. However, modern boards also face challenges and encounter opportunities that require board management to navigate.
  2. Define board of director roles and responsibilities: The board chair, corporate secretary, and general counsel all play pivotal yet distinct roles in corporate dynamics. Understanding those roles is vital to collaboration and success.
  3. Identify the principles of effective board management: Managing a board requires strategic decisions regarding board composition, leadership, evaluation and more. Navigating that landscape is key to building the transparency and trust that effective boards depend on.
  4. Utilize board management best practices: Adopting best practices is crucial for streamlining board operations. These include education on risks, prioritizing stakeholder engagement, cultivating agility, enhancing governance and more.
  5. Consider board management software: As boards mature, they often find that software can enhance their collaboration and effectiveness. But software only helps if you choose the right solution for your unique needs.

What is board management in education?

Board management in education is not unlike the oversight corporate boards need. Like corporations, board management in education guides how a board governs its institution. Unlike corporations, though, education boards are charged with creating a positive learning environment that attracts and engages its students — a very distinct objective.

Moreover, some educational institutions have a board of trustees rather than a board of directors. Nevertheless, board management gives the board structure so they can effectively lead their institution and win the trust of their community.

School board management

School board members are elected officials. That makes school board management unique because board members are beholden to their community, not shareholders or district staff. The role of board management in schools is to give the community a voice in how schools operate.

School board management gives members the tools to bridge the gap between the community and the district, including clear governance for decision-making and collaboration, involvement in recruiting and onboarding district administrators, and seeking training to shape financial and school policies.

Board management in higher education

Higher education is yet another unique application for board management. Many higher education institutions have boards of trustees — not directors — that shape the institution’s approach to student success. These boards are charged both with their institution's financial well-being and its ability to create a positive learning environment for students and the community.

Trustees often require board management similar to other boards, but fundraising and community engagement are often additional layers. Board management in higher education gives trustees the tools to foster positive relationships with the community, regularly seek feedback and attract donors to the institution.

Resources for your education board:

  1. Offer effective governance training for school boards: Governance may not be a well-known topic among school boards, but it’s the basis for everything the school board does. Board management should always start here.
  2. Understand the roles and responsibilities of school board directors: Board management starts with clearly defining which directors are responsible for what so they each have the support they need to meet expectations.
  3. Implement best practices for school board member training: School board members may join the board at different times, so each needs thorough training so they have the right skills and context to effectively serve the community.
  4. Cultivate effective school board members: Each district has unique needs, yet most will find that effective board members have several traits in common. These include a clear vision and a commitment to setting goals.
  5. Modernize governance management: School boards ready to take the next step should integrate governance management technology that secures communication, promotes collaboration and puts critical tasks on autopilot.

What is board management for governments?

In government, board management can refer to oversight and governance that happens at national, regional and local levels. Though governments don’t have “boards” like educational institutions and corporations do, the approach of managing good governance and strategic decision-making still applies.

Instead, “councils,” “commissions,” and other groups work to ensure governing bodies remain efficient, compliant and effective at serving their constituents. This can include activities ranging from implementing policies and overseeing the implementation of those policies to navigating the legislative process, managing the budget and offering accountability to the public.

Local governments

Board management in government is distinct from other sectors. Yet, the needs of local governments are even more specific than those of other types of government. Local government includes anything from city councils to the mayor’s office.

Management means cultivating collaboration and accountability between each entity so they can tackle individual responsibilities and seamlessly collaborate on the issues they both touch. Many local governments have management built-in (e.g., the mayor presides over the city council), but governance software can further streamline council/commission activities.

Resources for your government board:

  1. Understand the importance of efficient local government: Above all else, local government is beholden to the voters. A more organized board can more effectively work together to tackle issues their community cares about.
  2. Build public trust: Everything the government does is rooted in public trust. Without it, voter turnout declines, government employees are less satisfied, and social ties erode.
  3. Strengthen communication: Sharing the right information at the right time without compromising security is another key way the government can earn the goodwill of its community.
  4. Employ governance best practices: Governance for government is different than other sectors. Getting it right is crucial to fulfilling the government boards’ legal and fiduciary responsibilities.
  5. Empower your organization with software: Get the deep insights you need to make better decisions that win public trust.

Leverage technology to lead with confidence

Board management is the foundation for all board activities. Yet, it must also be dynamic. As the organization’s needs change, so, too, must the approach to cultivating board effectiveness. Now that we’ve explained that blurry “What is board management” and shared some additional resources, what remains is how to manage your board so they’re ready for whatever may come.

That readiness starts with technology. With the right software (for corporate boards or public and elected boards), achieving greater board efficiency that builds trust with constituents and shareholders is simpler than ever. Yet, finding the “right” software is easier said than done.

Whether you choose free or premium board management software can make the difference between board management that’s your secret sauce or your biggest headache. Learn more about software and the hidden costs of free options.


Your Data Matters

At our core, transparency is key. We prioritize your privacy by providing clear information about your rights and facilitating their exercise. You're in control, with the option to manage your preferences and the extent of information shared with us and our partners.

© 2024 Diligent Corporation. All rights reserved.