November 22, 2023

Optimize Your Nonprofit Board Meetings: Make Them Effective & Efficient

Board meetings take time and resources. You recruit, update, prepare, attend, and follow up. Your board members devote half a day per meeting, including prep and travel.

Here’s how to make these meetings engaging and worthy of the investment:

1. Perfect the Time Frame

Plan meetings for 90 minutes or less to keep energy high and inspire focus.

2. Limit Decisions

Target three quality decisions per meeting. Focus on what’s most critical in this meeting. Adopt this exercise to help organize priorities.

3. Streamline the Agenda

Organize items logically and label them with the desired outcome. For example, “Decide next step to open new location” instead of “Discuss new site.”

4. List Time Expectations

Add time estimates to the agenda. Estimates show priorities and help manage discussions. It guides the verbose.

5. Keep the End Goal in Mind 

Before you finalize the agenda, evaluate your time investments. Plan to invest more time in discussions that have a more significant impact. Briefly discuss smaller items.

6. Plan Your Approach 

Frame each topic clearly. Prepare questions and anticipate board queries.

All meetings have two parts: the agenda and the process. Plan for each. Most people focus on the agenda—getting things done. The process builds relationships and improves decision quality.board meetings have two parts, the agenda and the process, plan for both

7. Build Relationships

Include a brief one-on-one or group exercise. Five-minute directed conversations build relationships and enhance group discussions. It’s an investment in future issues.

8. Avoid Micromanaging

Ensure agenda items are strategic, not management-focused. Adjust questions to reflect this. It’s one thing to have the board try to micromanage; it is another to invite it. Watch How to Help Your Nonprofit Board Stay in the Governance Lane.

9. Handle Other Items Efficiently

Besides the top three priorities, the board will still need to give input on other items. Reduce these to the essentials. For non-priority items, consider emails, surveys, and consent agendas. Use the interim before you have a quorum for reactions to new ideas.

10. End Strong

You have options. End with peer shout-outs. And, or do a quick meeting evaluation. Endings matter, and the power of leaving on a positive note can elevate the entire board meeting experience.

Maximize Board Impact:
Print this list and keep it in your board agenda file.

For more guidance,  check out this Nonprofit CEO Library and sign up for KKaren’sCEO 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.


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