April 12, 2023

Better Boards: The Magic of Ending Meetings with Peer Shoutouts

Most board meeting end “with a whimper.”* If you would like to end your meeting with a wow, instead of a whimper, ask everyone to notice and share the meeting’s wins. Why? You’ll inspire work on post-meeting tasks and improve meeting attendance. Discover how to end better below.

Yes! You’re coming to your board meeting. You’re on time, and the agenda’s almost complete. Whether it’s been a stellar event or just ho-hum, people are preparing to leave. You hear papers shuffled and see belongings gathered and phones checked. Before responding to the cues to finish, celebrate your progress and the gifts and talents of your members.

Take care! Don’t let the pressure to finish dissuade you from a Better End.

Why End Your Nonprofit Board of Directors Meetings with a Better End?

  • To stand out. Your board members people invest their time, talents, and money. With Better Ends, you celebrate. Your meetings stand out from the usual ho-hum close. 
  • Your members learn how their service matters today and what they did that helped.
  • You circle back to the 30,000-foot view and away from the details of board work.
  • You build on strengths. Want more of something? Praise it. Gallup states, “Not only are strengths-based organizations more productive, but companies using strengths significantly increase the odds that employees and customers will be engaged and thriving.”
  • Recognition is sweet, and people savor it. Ending on the positive is like an after-dinner mint.

How to Better Ends Work for You at Your Board Meetings

You’ve got lots to do, so here’s how to pull off Better Ends in ten minutes or less.

  1. Add the “Better End Question” to the agenda.– 1 minute
  2. Select a question from below, decide how members will answer, and gather any supplies. For instance, i.e., index cards and pens for written anonymous answers.)–2 minutes
  3. The board chair or CEO asks the question at the meeting– 1 minute
  4. You hear or read and reflect on the answers—6 minutes
  5. You enjoy a post-meeting glow and hope for the work ahead. –Hours! Days!! Even weeks!!!

✅ Be Careful

Shout-outs must be sincere, and naming specific behaviors is best.

Better End Question for Your Nonprofit Board Meetings

Below find five questions (plus an option for boards working on more governance), why they work, and their best application.

💡 Question 1. What worked well today? What was the highlight of this board meeting?

Why it works

  • People reflect on the meeting using a positive lens
  • You rehear sticky insights and uncover gems
  • It reinforces behaviors you want the board to repeat

 Best applications

  • The first time you add a Better End
  • To end warmly when the meeting had highs and lows

⚡ Question 2. What energized you about this board meeting?

Why it works

  • People review their excitement
  • You hear what’s making people light up
  • Many answers will reflect on the work ahead and energize people for it

Best application

When you want to capture and name the positive buzz in the room

🙏🏾 Question 3. What did you appreciate about our time together? What are you grateful for?

 Why it works

  • Harvard Health Publishing says, “Gratitude helps people feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve their health, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships.”
  • It encourages peer praise (which is better than from paid staff)

Best application

After any meeting, especially when disagreements exist and people made thoughtful comments.

📆 Question 4. What was the most critical short-term decision we made at this meeting? Long-term?

Why it works

  • You frame the meeting two ways: now and down the road.
  • It reminds boards of the progress you made and that their work matters.

Best applications

  • When a conflict about a tactic takes over the agenda and the vision seems foggy
  • When your agendas overstuffed schedule, and you want to offer everyone a chance to cheer all you accomplished

🏆 Question 5. What was another board member’s superpower at this gathering, and why?

Why it works

  • It reminds your board members that they have agency and to use their superpowers
  • You celebrate the talents and skills and build member connections

Best applications

  • When your board worked well together
  • To close out events like retreats or workshops

 Note: While this is not a popularity contest, the board chair should be ready to mention board members whose contributions get overlooked in this shout-out.

Bonus for Boards Working on Being Governance Boards

🛫 Question 6. Where did we do go good governance today? Who helped keep the board in its lane?

Why it works

  • It reminds board members of their role
  • It allows the board to analyze its commitment to governance in real-time

Best application

When the board governs during the meeting and you want them to recognize it, too. For more on board governance follow this board governance resources link.

The Better End Success Habit

Closing meetings with a question to emphasize wins is a clever success habit. You can use a Better End whenever you meet, but you’ll find it magic for your volunteer nonprofit board of directors.

What rituals do you use to end your board meeting? How are they working? Will you try a better end? 

You can subscribe to my twice-monthly newsletter for nonprofit CEOs, Karen’s CEO Solutions

* TS Elliot, The Hollow Men

Karen Eber Davis

Karen Eber Davis provides customized advising and coaching around nonprofit strategy and board development. People leaders hire her to bring clarity to sticky situations, break through barriers that seem insurmountable, and align people for better futures. She is the author of 7 Nonprofit Income Streams and Let's Raise Nonprofit Millions Together.


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