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Many nonprofit organizations operate board meetings, but not as many do so effectively. With our experience facilitating hundreds of board engagements, we have identified the components necessary for most board meetings to become more productive and more relevant to the short-term and long-term goals of the organization.

Boardroom

Preparation

Board meetings begin before the board gets together.

  • Board members should receive relevant materials three to five days in advance of the meeting. Materials can include financial reports relevant to the upcoming meeting; business filings; new proposals; an agenda; metrics demonstrating programmatic effectiveness; etc.
  • Sending information ahead of the board meeting offers several benefits. For example board directors can familiarize themselves with information and prepare detailed questions, which allows meetings to follow a tactical focus, rather than a strict report-based approach. Advance notice of controversial or high-sensitive information avoids surprising board members at meetings, decreasing emotionally-charged responses often derails the agenda set during board meetings.

Logistics

  • Ensure board meetings begin and end on time. Adhering to a set time enforces the idea that you value the board’s time. Board meetings tend to be more productive when all board members understand that ideas, questions, and discussion has a clear beginning and end.
  • Ordinary, routine items such as the presentation of the minutes should be mentioned at the beginning. The conclusion of the meeting should announce the date, time, and location of the next meeting as well.

Agenda

  • The majority of the board meeting’s discussion should be focus on strategy decisions, led by the board chair and executive director. In most cases, the purpose of the discussion isn’t so that the board can make an immediate decision. Instead, consider the meeting as a platform to help the board understand predicaments and opportunities in greater detail. This allows board members to share their individual perspectives and expertise.
  • Key elements of committee reports should be emphasized. For example although development reports should be sent to the committee prior to the meeting, discussing the updates and opportunities related to development further engages the board in fundraising.

Recognition

  • Sharing recognition within the board is important because not only does morale raise, the practice demonstrates the skills and behaviors that are appreciated and how board members can help. This can look like the board chair beginning meetings by appreciating board members who have provided an important contact, secured a new financial contribution, or acquired a valuable resource.
  • The board chair should end meetings by thanking board members for their effort and commitment. Clear, tangible ways that board members can assist the nonprofit’s goals until the board meets again should also be offered by board chair.

While no two organizations are exactly the same, no two boards operate the same. The above steps provide a guide for newer boards to use as a foundation to create a robust board culture. More experienced boards can use the steps above as a checklist to see where, if any, holes exist that’s preventing boards from reaching its potential.

If you’re board needs guidance, consider visiting our board development page.

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