How to Create Engaging & Effective Board Meetings

two people talkingNo 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. Between preparation, driving, attending, and returning to homes or offices, your board member devotes at least half a day to each meeting.

How can you make your meetings worthy of all of these investments? 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 discussed, focus on the outcome you need and label items accordingly. For example, discuss opening a new site becomes, decide the next step on opening a new site.

4. Establish Time Expectations.

Indicate 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 that will net $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.

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 surefire way to torpedo your timeframe. However, directed five-minute conversations build relationships, are enjoyable, and precede insightful group discussions. Everyone starts your group discussion knowing the opinion of at least one other person on a topic.

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.  For more, 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 using 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 and create gold. Print out this list and keep it in your board agenda file.

For more about creating effective boards,

Watch 5 Ways to Turn Off Your Nonprofit Board Members

Read Guilty As Charged: Prove Your Board Supports Your Organization

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