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conference-1886025_640Having 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.

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college-1280964_640Having a sense of community in an NFP of any size is beneficial but even more in a large NFP to give a real sense of engagement and inclusion.

Build a sense of community in your not for profit

Building a sense of community allows everyone to feel like they are doing their part and helping to shape the overall project. By doing this, you will find your employees and volunteers will go over and above what is asked of them.

Together you can work hard during the challenges and celebrate the successes.

Let your volunteers and employees engage fully

A strong bond between members in the NFP will help develop a strong shared vision and bring your mission statement to life. If your volunteers or employees feel like they are segregated from other members due to their work situation or positioning, then their role will seem no more than just a ‘job’.

Allow your volunteer treasurer to have the opportunity with your marketing team and vice versa. Enable everyone to create a connection with others and engage on a positive and meaningful level.

Generate excitement around projects

A sense of community will allow a real buildup of excitement and motivation take place when you are due to launch a new project. This will give your project much momentum and give plenty of opportunities for participation.

Your supporters will act as champions to spread the word about your project and maintain momentum for the overall project.

Initiate events to build community

The sense of community does not always come naturally particularly if there is a real mix of backgrounds and individuals in the group. Initiate events to allow people to get to know each other and build on their commonality – the want or need to support the non-profit and raise money to make a difference in other people’s lives.

Ensure clear communication at all times

It is so much easier for everyone to work together once they have a clear view of the NFP’s vision and what they are working towards. If communication is lost and people are carrying out tasks with no set direction, then motivation can be hard to find.

Ensure that all the channels of communication are open both upward and downward and everyone is up to speed with their responsibilities. And this goes for listening as well. If people feel that they are being heard, they will be only too keen to provide feedback and offer support.

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teamworkVolunteers may come into your NFP as individuals, but you need them to work together as a group. This doesn’t always happen naturally, but there are things you can do to help bond your people into a devoted team.

Know their reasons for volunteering

Some people like to help out in many places; some will be drawn just to your organisation. Understanding why each individual is there will help you to keep them engaged and inspired, whether they want to learn new skills, fill some free time, or just love to help others.

It will also help you to build an effective team of like-minded people who enjoy each other’s company. Volunteering is often a social activity where people make new friends.

Communicate

This is the easiest and most effective way to keep your team motivated, but it’s easy to overlook. Expectations should be clear and responsibilities of each person should be laid out, providing a path to success. Provide instruction and offer additional training if needed.

Don’t forget to listen as well as talk. Volunteers are the people at the heart of your organisation; ask for feedback and be open to suggestions. Talking to them before hiring an expensive consultant can save your NFP time and money.

Share the vision

Your NFP has a big picture and volunteers work on small goals toward making it happen. Show them how the work their team is doing fits into the overall plan, so they know what they’re working toward.

Instead of taking over, delegate responsibility. For instance, don’t hand down a to-do list. Instead, ask the team to make small and large goals for their project. Give your people more control, and they will be driven to make things happen – plus they’ll keep the pressure on the other members of the team.

Let them know they’re making a difference

When a goal is reached, or progress is made, share that with the team so they can see the results of their hard work. For example after building a school, invite the volunteers to visit and see classrooms full of children.

Show appreciation

It’s simple: say thank you! Say it in person when you see them, say it publicly on social media with photos showing off their hard work. Reward the team by celebrating together when important projects come to an end.

Enthusiasm is contagious, and if you aren’t excited about your NFP, no one else will be either. Have fun and your people will too!

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linkedin-911794_640Keeping a steady online presence is important for keeping your organisation in the front of supporters’ minds, and LinkedIn is one of the most useful social media sites to be a part of. It is not only a great way to keep donors up to date about what your organisation is up to, but also a efficient way to network with other organisations with similar causes. Look at the following tips to make sure you are using LinkedIn effectively.

Let Loose Your Brand

Set up a non-profit company page, and build it to contain all the relevant information people need to know about your organisation. Make sure it is easy to identify as the official representation of your group, by using official logos and letterheads. Add photos and vital details to demonstrate the dimensions of your organisation, and give viewers as full a picture as you can of your real-world operations.

Network with the Unknown

As well as adding groups and individuals you already liase with to your profile, seek out other organisations that share your mission, or who have shared clientele with you. LinkedIn is used the world over to make new connections or the advancement of many causes, so don’t be shy about sharing your message.

Be There Often

Keep to a regular schedule for updating so supporters always know what projects are underway or what fundraising activities are currently going on. Avoid inundating contacts with information, but do frequently remind them you are there. Depending on the size and scope of your organisation, consider updating once daily or weekly to get the balance right.

Let Your Message Shine

As well as a regular LinkedIn page, NFPs should also look into becoming involved in the Linkedin Answers community. This is a simple way to keep your finger on the pulse and in touch with what questions are arising in and about your industry. By asking and getting new information, knowledge bases of all parties can grow. Being the one to answer others queries can help develop a reputation for expertise.

Overall, LinkedIn is an affordable way to reach a lot of people, and generate valuable business contacts. It is effective when used well, and can drive traffic to your organisation’s main page and message. For further information straight from the source, have a look at LinkedIn’s special page just for not-for-profits. The training program provided is a true course to getting your feet wet.

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pexels-photo-31256Coming up on the calendar are some interesting and worthwhile events for NFP board members and volunteer treasurers.

Meetings and Minutes Masterclasses are taking place in Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne towards the end of April, and are designed to be beneficial for all NFP members with committee, administration or board roles. There is almost always room for improvement in running more efficient meetings and taking better minutes, so those who think they could do with some assistance in this area should have a look at the course information and registration on the Institute Of Community Directors Australia website.

Also just around the corner, the Board Builder Conference, is being held on April 29 in Melbourne. This conference will put a focus on building boards that are responsible, productive and sustainable, and at the centre of organisations that do first-rate work consistently. There will be a selection of speakers to give insight and advice on a range of issues pertinent to modern NFPs, including Kylie Cirak, the Director of Membership Experience at the Institute of Community Directors Australia, and Paul Ronalds, CEO of Save the Children. This is an excellent opportunity to consult experts on your organisation’s particular problem areas, and also learn new management and directorial skills. For further information, and to register, refer to the website.

Finally, but importantly, the Communities in Control Conference is scheduled to take place in Melbourne on May 30th and 31st. This event is a chance to engage with some of the greatest minds in the country and be on the lookout for what is emerging in our cultural landscape, to be able to adjust your organisation’s mission and work to be the most efficient it can be. This conference is designed to be both entertaining and inspirational and aims to bring new ideas to attendees, so community organisations continue to evolve with the communities they serve. There are some high profile speakers, including broadcaster, academic and author, Waleed Aly and actor and comedian Magda Szubanski. Other speakers bringing their valuable perspectives include Holly Ransom, intergenerational economics expert, and Celeste Liddle, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Indigenous Organiser for the National Tertiary Student Union. More information, including an in-depth programme, can be viewed at Communities in Control.

These events, along with others throughout the year, are a worthwhile investment of time and resources as they facilitate keeping on top of necessary skills and brushing up on topics that are useful to successfully running an NFP organisation.

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0 QnVzaW5lc3NfMTQ3LmpwZw==It can be a precarious balancing act, the idea of fun at work. While all workers, volunteer or otherwise, will be more productive when they are doing things they enjoy, the idea of trying to inject more fun into an organisation’s operations can be quite a tricky one. When implemented properly, there are several major benefits of fun at work, but there are notable pitfalls too, so spending time to get things ‘just right’ is worth the extra thought it entails.

Improved Communication

Staff or board members who have opportunities to get to know one another find their communication is more seamless and fewer workplace misunderstandings take place. Getting to know each other can be a long process, but is accelerated by work-related extracurricular activities.

Increased Productivity

Better, more efficient performance is the natural consequence of hard work being interspersed with fun. Silicon Valley companies are famous for having places for employees to play computer games at their own discretion throughout their workday, or even flop on a beanbag and have a beer. Each organisation will have their own ideas for what is appropriate for their culture, but letting workers have fun can give them the mental break they need for the next burst of innovative thinking.

Improved Worker Retention

People tend to stick around when they feel they belong and are appreciated. Festivals that rely on volunteers have the same people back year after year, often because they are looking forward to the “volunteer appreciation concert”. Making sure people are having fun is a great way to encourage them to stick around and enjoy a long-term association with any organisation.

Staff Implemented Fun

Many organisations report the best results from work-related fun occur when it is the employees themselves who decide what they would like to do. Giving workers the first and final say in their work-related fun activities increases feelings of being appreciated and ensures the activities chosen will be well received. As one individual pointed out, work-related obligations that are not chosen by those supposed to enjoy them, can end up feeling like more work.

Formation of “Second Family”

When workers have the chance to have fun and get to know one another well, colleagues can start to build relationships that can feel, particularly for younger people, like a “second family”. They are people one can feel comfortable with, trust implicitly, and enjoy sharing milestones and successes with. When this happens, spontaneous fun emerges throughout the calendar, as people are keen to mark occasions, such as birthdays, at work.

Ensuring a good balance of fun exists alongside the operations of any organisation is good encouragement for the people involved to work better, experience greater satisfaction, and stick around to be part of an organisation’s growth.

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volunteerVolunteers don’t grow on trees, so it can be tempting to grab any Tom, Dick or Harriet and welcome them onboard, only to find they are the wrong fit for your organisation.

1. Passion plus professionalism.

Just because your volunteers are not getting paid doesn’t mean they get to leave their A game at home and do half a job. Commitment and reliability are just as important in volunteering as they are in professional activities as well as personal life. Passion is infectious too. Adding the right person with a positive spirit and fresh eyes, to an already committed volunteer team, can increase the energy and outputs and make even the most mundane tasks enjoyable. Professionalism also means demonstrating integrity and reliability. If you say you’re going to do something, then do it, and if you commit to being at a certain place at a certain time, then be there! People who give their best, are enthusiastic, willing and interested are invaluable, regardless of the skills they bring to the table. With the right attitude, they can learn and achieve just about anything.

“Your personal and professional lives will have to go hand in hand and will have influence on each other.” – Abhishek Ratna

2. Flexibility & Energy

While it’s true that volunteers bring with them strengths and skills that you may have targeted, and a particular task or role to perform, flexibility and ability to give new things a go is invaluable in a great volunteer. An open mind and willingness to learn, adapt and get stuck in can make the difference between a body just filling a chair and someone who is an asset to the team. Not for Profit organisations who rely on volunteer support need people who can take on a broad range of tasks, and do them with enthusiasm and a smile! You want people with a ‘can do’ attitude who come to hang out with you, make a difference and give their best because they want to. You want them to enjoy working with you and want to make a real impact, not people who just want to make their resume look better. The more positive energy given by volunteers, the more that flows back to them in return.

“Every time you empty your vessel of that energy, fresh new energy comes flooding in.” – Anthony Kiedis

3. Team player

If you could do it all on your own you wouldn’t need volunteers, so chances are there will be a team of people working together on a task or outcome, and teamwork is an essential skill for any volunteer. Depending on the array of duties you may be working with other staff, paid or volunteer, service users and the general public. Your volunteers will also be representing your organisation, so teamwork skills also contribute to being a good ambassador. Good communication and listening skills, being approachable and friendly, and generally amiable and cooperative are the starting points of good teamwork and the ability to play nice with others and work towards a common goal. An ideal team player is also a self-starter who can use a little initiative and identify what needs to be done and when without being given constant supervision and instruction.

“Teamwork is the secret that makes common people achieve uncommon results.” – Ifeanyi Onuoha

If your volunteer recruitment activities are effective, and your induction process is robust, you should be getting it right, most of the time. Keeping in mind these basic key attributes and qualities to look for in a volunteer will help ensure you get it right, more often than not.

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