November 22, 2013

Create Engaging Nonprofit Board Meetings

No matter how you calculate it, board meetings are expensive. You spend hours recruiting members, keeping people up-to-date, preparing for, attending, and doing follow-up tasks. And it’s not just you. Your board members devote half a day to each meeting between preparation, driving, attending, and returning to homes or offices.

How can you make your meetings engaging and worthy of this investment? How can you have better board meetings? Think of them as mini-special events. Adopt the following guidelines:

1. Establish the Perfect Timeframe.

Plan meetings for ninety minutes or less. This keeps energy high and inspires focus.

2. Limit Decisions.

At most, request three quality decisions per meeting. Which three decisions are the most important this month? For help organizing priorities, adopt this exercise. 

3. Organize a Straightforward, Outcome-Focused Agenda.

To achieve your objectives, organize agenda items in a logical sequence. For instance, discuss plans to receive planned gifts before discussing a workshop on wills. Instead of just listing what needs to be addressed, focus on the outcome you need and label items accordingly. For example, opening a new site becomes: deciding the next step to open a new location.

4. Establish Time Expectations.

Write time estimates on the agenda. Announcing how long you will commit to an item indicates priorities and promotes peer sanctioning of the verbose.

5. Keep the End Goal in Mind. 

Evaluate the logic of your time investments. All things being equal, keep discussions brief about a special event worth $5,000. Invest more time to discuss a $50,000 corporate gift prospect.

6. Plan Your Approach.  

Establish tactics for each agenda item. How will you quickly frame each topic? What questions will you ask? Predict what questions the board may ask. Plan your answers.

Be aware that all meetings have two parts: the agenda and the process. Plan for each. Most people only think about the schedule. The agenda gets things done. The process decides how to build relationships and create quality decisions.board meetings have two parts, the agenda and the process, plan for both

7. Build Relationships.

Include one opportunity for board members to hold one-on-one conversations with others. Adding a group exercise may seem like a way to torpedo your timeframe. However, directed five-minute conversations build relationships, are enjoyable, and precede insightful group discussions. Everyone starts the group discussion knowing the opinion of one other person.

8. Don’t Invite Micromanaging.

Study your draft agenda from a macro viewpoint. Are the issues and questions raised strategic or management-oriented? Unless you seek management help, adjust your questions to reflect strategy. Watch How to Help Your Nonprofit Board Stay in the Governance Lane.

9. Deal with Everything Else.

Besides the top three priorities, the board will still need to give input on other items. Reduce these to the essentials. Adding more items makes the staff feel safer, but this safety comes at the cost of burdening the board. Make a plan on how to handle the remaining items. Consider emails, surveys, and consent agendas, plus use the lull before you have a quorum to reward those who arrive early.

As a nonprofit leader, you can help your board maximize the benefit they make for your nonprofit. Plan your meetings, so you create engaging nonprofit board meetings. Print out this list and keep it in your board agenda file.

For more about creating effective nonprofit boards,

Watch 5 Ways to Turn Off Your Nonprofit Board Members

Read Guilty As Charged: Prove Your Board Supports Your Organization

For more answers to your board questions, check out this Nonprofit CEO Library.

Sign up for Karen’s CEO Solutions for solutions delivered to your inbox.

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.


If you appreciate these Added Value posts, please consider subscribing.

By submitting this form, you are consenting to receive marketing emails from: Karen Eber Davis Consulting. You can revoke your consent to receive emails at any time by using the SafeUnsubscribe® link, found at the bottom of every email. Emails are serviced by Constant Contact

Latest Posts