Having a successful board meeting involves a bit more planning and effort than simply setting a date and time, crossing your fingers and hoping that everyone shows up.
The following are a few steps to take to ensure that your board’s next meeting is a successful one.
Use the Agenda to Determine Length and Location
While some planners begin their preparations by deciding on the venue, or actual duration of the meeting first, it might be a better idea to allow the agenda itself to be the starting point.
An agenda is simply a formal, written list of the activities that are planned to occur at your board’s meeting. Most agendas will start with a call to order, or roll call, and will end with the formal adjournment. In between this, the specific items of business that the board plans to discuss and act upon are listed.
Sometimes, if there are a large number of items to get through, some boards adopt a consent agenda, so that important items that have already been discussed can be approved with one vote.
The number of items on your board’s agenda, and the amount of time that each is expected to take, usually determines the actual length of your board’s meeting. Sometimes, the planned length of your session will also affect your board’s choice of location for the meeting. For example, if your board only meets a handful of times a year, it may be better for your meeting to be set to occur over a few days. It could even be held in conjunction with a hotel, so that board members can be certain of having a place to stay and rest. Choosing a location that is centrally located for most of your members is usually the best option when the meeting is scheduled to last several hours or more than one day.
Other boards may meet on a monthly basis, and discuss items frequently, so these meetings may only need to last an hour or so to cover all of the topics that need to be considered and acted upon. In these cases the meeting could reasonably be held on site at your nonprofit’s main offices. This is especially a good choice if your nonprofit has the resources to make teleconferencing available to board members that might live some distance away from the meeting’s location.
By allowing the length of the agenda to be a guiding factor when planning your board’s next meeting, you can choose a length and place for the meeting that will be more convenient for your board members. This increases the chances that more of your members will show up for the meeting and enjoy their service on the board.
Remember that Board Members are Only Human
When planning your board’s next meeting, it’s important to keep in mind that your NFP’s board members have needs. It’s also a good idea to offer and serve the appropriate meals when meetings are scheduled to occur over several hours or days. Even when it is expected to last just an hour or two, offering light refreshments is a good way to help members maintain their energy and attention levels during the meeting.
In addition to meals and snacks, it’s also important to schedule time for board members to meet and socialise before and during the meeting if it is expected to last for several hours or days. This way, your members get a chance to know one another as individuals, which reduces the chances of misunderstandings and other conflicts and increases their ability to cooperate and collaborate with one another.
Allow the NFP’s Chair to Set the Pace
Regardless of the number of items on your board’s agenda, or the length and location of the meeting, it’s important that your NFP’s chairperson is ready to set and control the pace of the meeting. This needs to happen so that board members don’t get bogged down in too many details. This will also ensure that the meeting doesn’t drag out too long, and the work that needs to be done is accomplished.
While you want your chair to encourage open discussion, your chair needs to be able to facilitate communication while also controlling its flow and length. If your chairperson is new to the role, it may be a good idea for your chair to attend training on how to conduct and preside over board meetings. This will help them understand actions that they can take to ensure that members stay on task and that the meeting flows smoothly.
Help Board Members to Prepare for the Meeting
One important way that you can ensure that progress is made during your board’s meetings is to make sure that all of your members are well-prepared. Make certain that you provide board members with the reports and other materials that they need well before the meeting is scheduled to take place, and encourage them to do their homework on the issues before the meeting occurs.