Better Board Meetings

//Better Board Meetings

Better Board Meetings

You’ve done a lot of work to put together a talented, passionate Board of Directors for your nonprofit organization. You are feeling optimistic about what you can accomplish, and about how you can further your mission and realize your vision. Now it’s time for…..a meeting. Few events stop change in its tracks faster than bad meetings.

You gather a roomful of smart, experienced and passionate individuals and what happens next? Typically what happens is that everyone listens to reports for two or more hours. Minutes of the last meeting are approved. The Finance Committee might provide an update on the budget; the Development Committee might report on the status of the upcoming fundraiser; the Marketing Committee discusses the number of “likes” on the Facebook page and the Executive Director gives a staff and/or an organizational update.   Everyone nods politely, maybe a comment is made or a question is asked. Eyes begin to glaze because it’s getting late, and the meeting is adjourned.

But that’s not the end of it. Two Board members walk out together and begin to express concern about the mix of revenues. “Is this fundraiser really as effective as it used to be? “I hate luncheons! It’s so difficult to get people excited about a $100 bland chicken meal.” Two other Board members are seen leaving, deep in conversation with furrowed brows.

Does this sound familiar to you? That nagging feeling that your time, and the time of your team, is not being well spent? If so, it’s time to consider re-tooling your Board meetings!

Every nonprofit wants Board members with expertise and passion to share; but very often the opportunity for accessing those precious assets is lost at Board meetings. So how can you change your meetings to allow for meaningful discussion, and education about critical issues facing your organization? And, perhaps more importantly, how can you fan the flames of their passion for your mission?

Here are a few helpful ideas to consider:

Use a Consent Agenda.

For items that require official approval, “bundle them” and approve them by consent. There are many resources on Consent Agendas, here is one to get started.

Use a dashboard.

A dashboard is a great way to get a snapshot of key metrics that will give Board members an efficient way to assess how progress is being made by your organization. Use of a dashboard can shorten the “update” process and serve as a cover letter for the meeting.

Add a “Mission Moment” to the agenda.

Consider asking a Board member to use 2 or 3 minutes of the agenda to talk about why the organization and its mission is so important to them (doing this on a rotation will get more people involved in this). These “testimonies” can be very inspirational. If you put this near the beginning of the agenda, it will set the stage for members to be excited and engaged. Building the storytelling skills of your Board members is directly related to their ability to be persuasive ambassadors (and fund developers) for your organization.

Bring food!

Very often meetings are in the evening, and Board members come straight from their offices. Rumbling stomachs don’t help when you’re trying to keep people focused and engaged!

Make time for education.

Use your meeting time to strengthen Board skills and understanding of your field. What challenges do you face? What expectations do you have of your Board members? Do they have the tools to fulfill those expectations? Think about having “mini workshops” throughout the year.

Provide opportunities to discuss critical issues facing your organization.

You have a room full of smart, creative, passionate individuals. Let them help with the big decisions you face! If time is allowed for Board members to weigh in with opinions both pro and con, they will feel “heard,” and will be better able to understand those big decisions that are made.


Make sure there is levity at some point during the meeting. Laughter breaks down barriers and releases endorphins!

Ultimately, you want your Board members leaving your meetings feeling energized and excited about your organization. You want the important conversations to happen in the context of the meeting itself; not between one or two people on their way to the parking lot.

How are your Board meetings? Do you have more ideas for creating great meetings that allow for generative conversations? Click here for a Board Source starter resource.



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