Finding and keeping good board members can be challenging for not-for-profits. So it’s important that you not make the job harder and any more time-consuming than necessary. This starts with efficient board meetings.
The “P” word
The key to effective board meetings can be summarized in one word: planning. Once the meeting date is set, your executive director and your board chair should prepare an agenda. To ensure the meeting will cover all pressing concerns, e-mail board members to ask if there’s anything they want to add.
For each item, the agenda should provide a timetable and assign responsibility to specific board members. Include at least one board vote to reinforce a sense of purpose and accomplishment, but be careful not to cram too much into your agenda. Otherwise, the meeting is likely to feel rushed and some items may need to be postponed to a future meeting.
Distribute a board packet at least one to two days before the meeting. This packet should consist of the agenda, minutes from the previous board meeting and materials relevant to new agenda items such as financial statements, project proposals and communications from your organization’s stakeholders.
Some board members have little time to spare, but most will welcome the opportunity to get to know their colleagues. This can be accomplished with a short premeeting reception that allows members to chat. Staff should help facilitate communication by introducing new members to the group and ensuring people mingle.
During the board meeting, it’s critical that your executive director and board chair stick to the agenda and keep things moving. They should impose a time limit on discussions and call time when necessary — particularly if one or two individuals are dominating the conversation and discouraging others from speaking up.
A vote should be encouraged after a reasonable period. But if your organization requires a consensus (as opposed to a majority vote), the board may not be able to reach a decision immediately. If members need more time to think about or research an issue, postpone the decision to a future date and move on. Finally, end the meeting on a positive note: Remind board members why they’re there and thank them for their time.
Board meetings can’t be effective if there’s no follow-up. Find answers and supporting materials for any questions that might have arisen during the meeting and make sure unresolved items are placed on the next meeting’s agenda.
Also ensure that board members are fulfilling their commitments to your organization, such as committee work. Members may need some prodding from staff. If their busy schedules are impeding such work, step in and help organize and run their next committee meeting.
Even those committed to your organization and cause will become frustrated if board meetings run long and accomplish little. To keep members in the fold, plan each meeting carefully, stick to the agenda and follow up as needed.
To learn more information, please contact Matt Shroyer at [email protected].