May 14, 2024

Unlock Board Meeting Effectiveness: 10 Quick, Easy Meeting Evaluation Tools

You’re looking at your calendar with another board meeting looming, wondering how you will tackle it. You question how you will

  • Ensure members show up and come prepared
  • Stop delving into personal agendas
  • Keep the meeting from being unproductive.

Imagine a world where board meetings improve slowly but surely. Over time, they buzz with more participation and productive discussions that produce wise decisions.

Sounds like a make-believe, right? Wrong.

You have an often overlooked tool to build a bridge between so-so-board meetings and productive ones. The tool? Brace yourself. It’s boring– board meeting evaluations. Or, you may think it will take too much time, it’s too complex, or my board will never go for it. If this is you, read on. You’ll discover how board meeting evaluation can be quick, simple, and engaging.

Why Use Board Meeting Evaluations

Board meeting evaluations:

  • Build on what’s good to get better
  • Are part of learning communities
  • Remind members that they shape meetings
  • End with hope for even better next time.

“We shape our meetings, and they, in turn, shape us.”

Jay Vogt

How important is this dull tool? Very.

For example, I’m collaborating with a board to boost productivity and morale. Five months in, we see upward momentum. The chair picked meeting evaluations as key from a list of 15 tactics because of the fast impact.

In the research world, a study in the Journal of Management & Organization found that regular board meeting evaluations are an “effective, cost-efficient method for monitoring the Board’s governance effectiveness.”

“All boards should evaluate the effectiveness of their meetings.”


The Cold Hard Truth

As you read this, you might be thinking, ‘that’s nice,’  but adding a meeting evaluation at our board’s not going to happen because of:

  • Time constraints: Our agendas are packed.
  • The complexity: Who has the time or energy to collect data, analyze it, share it, and get buy-in
  • Resistance. Someone—and you know who will push back.

I hear you.

Time wise: This post gives you ten board meeting evaluation options with minimal or no preparation, which you can do in five minutes. Plus, there are two bonuses.

Complexity: Doing these live allows you to collect the data, share it, analyze it, and agree on the next steps then and there.

Dealing with resistors (both well-meaning and toxic) calls for a different post.For the well-meaning,  you’ve got the following in your favor: 1) they’re brief, 2) varied, 3) research-based, and 4) positive results may come as soon as your next meeting. Finally, a champion can remind everyone that meetings get evaluated, if not at the table, then in the parking lot.

Creative, Quick, and Valuable Evaluations

Here are the board meeting evaluations, plus two bonus evaluation tools.

No Prep or Minimal Prep Board Meeting Evaluations

m 1. Grade it

Explanation: Ask each member to channel a favorite former teacher and assign a grade (A-F) to the meeting. Conduct a round to hear each member’s grade and reasoning.

Prep: None.

* 2. Keep vs. Change

Explanation: Use a whiteboard and markers to write aspects of the meeting to keep and change.

Prep:  (Optional) Set up a whiteboard or easel sheet and gather markers.

1️⃣ 3. One Word

Explanation: Each member summarizes their crucial takeaway from the meeting in a single word or phrase, sharing it in a round. New members start first.  

Prep: None.

t 4. Gratitude Check

Explanation: Ask each member to share something or someone they are grateful for in the meeting or organization’s work. This evaluation fosters appreciation

Prep: None.

5. Rank It

Explanation: Participants rank the meeting on a scale of 1-5, ranging from “blah” to “love,” twice, and share why: round one for meeting content, round 2 for the meeting process

Prep: None.

6. Plus and Delta

Explanation: Each participant shares one “Plus” (what worked well) and one “Delta” (what needs to change). Conduct a round to hear insights.

 Prep: None.

p 7. Strategic Plan or Values

Explanation: Reflect on how the meeting contributed to advancing the strategic plan. Alternatively, discuss any organizational values they saw exemplified in the meeting. (Thanks to Rebecca White for this one!)

 Prep: None.

l 8. Board Governance

Explanation: Review the focus of the meeting. What percentage of our meetings focus on policy/governance vs. operations? Estimate when effectively governing.

Prep: None

Board Meeting Evaluations with More Time or Prep or Both

3️⃣ 9. The Three Questions

Explanation: Members answering three key questions:

1) What worked well in the meeting?

2) What could be done better?

3) How can we collectively work towards improvement?  

Prep: None.

Time: Approximately 15 minutes.

c 10. Draw a Card Any card

Explanation: Do you want to get prepared for the year? In this case, jot down board meeting evaluation questions and place them in a bowl. At the end of the meeting, a member picks a question to read aloud for the board to answer.

Prep: Develop a list of questions to put on paper slips. Recommendations:

  • Meeting Content: How did we do today? Were we talking about the right things?
  • Meeting Goals: Was the meeting effective in advancing our goals?
  • Agenda Accuracy: Did it reflect our needs? Any missed items?
  • Timing: Did we start and end on time? If not, how can we improve?
  • Participation: Did everyone have a chance to contribute?
  • Decision-Making: Were decisions clear and efficient? Was everyone heard?
  • New Ideas: Were they encouraged? Did we consider all solutions?
  • Productivity: How can we improve meeting productivity?
  • Learning: What did we learn to enhance future work?
  • Inspiration: Are you more motivated after the meeting? How can we boost this?
  • Process and Content: Did we cover the right topics and build relationships?

Bonus Evaluation Tools

These tools engage your board in assessing their work or your strategy.

m 11. Board Self-Assessment

Explanation:  It’s tricky to squeeze time in for the board to evaluate their performance. But, since assessment increases accountability, you prioritize regular board performance evaluations. Here are three tools to conduct board self-assessments quickly: 1) Your Five Minute Board Evaluation and 2) and 3) The Best Free Board Assessment Tools-Easy Solutions.

Prep: Share the graphic

Time: 5 minutes

e 12. Evaluate Your Strategic Plan

Explanation: Asking your board to evaluate your strategy allows them to see its strengths and weaknesses. The answers provide essential knowledge for their strategy and policy-setting work. Here’s the Evaluate Your Strategic Plan toolkit. It includes instructions, the tool, and examples.

Prep: Live: Print a diagnostic for each member. Virtual: Familiarize your board with the annotate tool on your meeting software.

Time: 10 minutes, plus up to 30 minutes to discuss findings    

Seize the Day

Test out a meeting evaluation method at your next board meeting. Make it simple and easy, experimenting with just one. See the change.

Imagine it’s time to build your agenda for the board meeting. With feedback from your recent meeting, you draft an agenda in five minutes and shoot it off to your board chair for their input, confident that you and your board are on the same page. You’re looking forward to the meeting—really!

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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