9 Ways to Engage Your Board at Your Virtual Board Meetings

9 Ways to Engage Your Board at Your Virtual Board Meetings

Virtual nonprofit board meetings are here to stay. Nonprofit leaders have adopted them for keeps. Why? Members don’t have to drive, can wear their PJs, and can attend from across the globe, which means attendance is up.


But this benefit comes with a high cost, right?


Virtual meetings mean less board engagement.


Or not?


Hale and Grenny found that in a study of 200 people, 86 percent of people showed even higher engagement in virtual meetings than face-to-face ones when the meeting is structured and facilitated in the right way. (italics added)


How to Engage Your Nonprofit Board “the Right Way” at Virtual Board Meetings


You can actively engage your board and get the same or better results during virtual meetings. You already know you need a thoughtful agenda. At your meetings, you encourage members to turn on their cameras and display their names. What else can you do to engage your board during virtual meetings?


9 Tactics that Make Your Virtual Nonprofit Board Meetings More Engaging


1.    Bump Up Mission Moments


Consider asking a member to report on a tour or volunteer experience. Or create a dual staff-board member report. Why this works? You use the power of peer referrals which carry more weight than staff reporting.


2.    Schedule Everyone to Share Immediately


The challenge with online meetings is that only one person can talk at a time. Overcome this by getting everyone to speak early. After completing your consent agenda, pop everyone into a breakout room with a partner to answer a top agenda question. Why this works? You signal that the meeting requires interaction, not passive watching, and introverts have the opportunity to express their opinions.


3.    Engage Every Five During the Rest of the Meeting


Request your board for a response every five minutes for the rest of the meeting, such as


·     Raising their tech hand if they agree
·     Writing their reaction to a report with one word in chat
·     Jotting a number. “On a scale of one to ten, rank your commitment to the decision.”
·     Brainstorming three ideas individually and pasting them in chat.
·     Starting a quick poll and discussing the answer.
Why this works? You learn cool stuff fast, everyone gets to participate, and the answers replace the body languages you’re missing.


4.    Draft and Practice Discussion Questions


How hard is it to ask good questions? Very. Ask lawyers and doctors. For instance, “I’m looking for three ideas to bump up our program evaluation” is better than “How can we make our program evaluation better” The first direct members toward practical solutions rather than philosophical discourse. Why this works? Ten minutes of rehearsal avoids 30-minutes of potentially dull discussion.


5.    Let Silence Speak.


Inset five to seven seconds of silence to answer your question before asking a new question or clarifying your query. Pretend silence is the name of a board member who always speaks first. Why this works? People need time to realize you want a reply, to form one, and decide to share it. Five seconds is barely enough time to do those tasks.


6.    Interrupt Better.


Learn to interrupt well. Help the long-winded to finish up by stating:
·     “May I jump in here?”
·     “Let me rudely interrupt.”
·     “Let me summarize what you’re saying.”
·     “Can I check something here? Does the board agree that we decided this and it’s time to move to the next agenda item?”
Why this works? You help passionate individuals remember that the board is full of people who want to share insights. (Hint: Put interrupting conversations hogs on your governance committee’s agenda.)


7.    Add On


Offer an Optional 30-minute mission-rich conversation before the meeting. For instance, invite people for “coffee” to discuss:
·     What a board member learned during a visit to sister organizations,
·     Responses to a Wall Street Journal or New York Times article on your mission,
·     Conference takeaways
Why this works? You provide quality content to educate your board members in a social setting with plenty of time to catch up.


8.    End Ten


Schedule your meeting to end ten minutes before the next hour or half to give people time to take care of urgent matters, stretch, and get ready for the next event. Why this works? When you embrace the challenge of back-to-back meetings, your members will learn they can stay your whole meeting and still be ready for their next session.


9.    Close with Shout Outs.


End your board meeting with an invitation to members to thank others. For instance, “What have you noticed other members doing during this meeting or that you want to celebrate” Why this works? You finish strong, and as motivational speaker Robin Sharma said, “Finishing strong is epic.”


You will hold at least some of your board meetings virtually this year. What will you do to drive your board’s engagement during them?


For more about board engagement, check out these board resources.


Karen Eber Davis

Karen Eber Davis Consulting guides executive directors and CEOs to generate the resources, boards, and support they need to make remarkable progress on their missions. As the award-winning thought-leader, advisor, and founding principal of Karen Eber Davis Consulting, Karen helps nonprofit leaders get answers, generate revenue, and grow their mission. Davis is known for her innovation and practicality based on her work with or visits to over 1,000 nonprofit organizations and her experience leading board and team events. She is the author of 7 Nonprofit Income Streams and Let's Raise Nonprofit Millions Together.