Nonprofit leaders often express frustration with how their board meetings operate. Board meetings are a necessity but they don’t have to be boring, dry and uninspiring. Instead, board meetings can be an effective strategy to engage board members and inspire them to become active members of the board. The flow and activities of board meetings begin with the board agenda. Unfortunately, sometimes the agenda is often an after-thought that is done out of necessity.
Far too often, much of the board meeting is spent looking back. For instance, the board agenda may include a report from the Executive Director or CEO, a review of the current financials and approval of the minutes from the last meeting. While each of these is important for the health and functioning of the organization, they should not take the bulk of the meeting.
Instead, use a consent agenda approach where these documents are provided in writing to board members a week or so in advance of the meeting. Board members are instructed to read through the documents and ask questions of the appropriate individual prior to the board meeting. Then, the board agenda only includes time to approve each of these items. Typically, using this approach, ten minutes is sufficient.
Best practice models have all board members actively involved in one or more committees. Provide time for each committee to highlight their activities since the last board meeting and to bring any issues to the board that need board approval. It is important to note that the committee decisions being brought to the board should be strategic decisions and not tactical or operational decisions. Strategic decisions or activities are those decisions or activities that set the course of action for the ministry or nonprofit. Tactical or operational decisions are those decisions that answer the question “how.” Usually tactical decisions will guide the implementation of strategic decisions. The length of time committee reports and votes will take depends on the number of committees reporting to the board as well as the amount of work they have completed. Tactical activities should be handled by the committee or by organizational staff.
Now for the exciting part….
The remainder of the board meeting can be spent on recommendations and new business. This is where the board gets to look forward. Using the strategic plan, the board can begin planning strategically…to take the organization into the future. This approach will get board members excited and motivated….looking forward and planning is exciting. If you have selected board members because they are passionate about the work of the organization, then their passion will shine through as they plan for the future.
Ultimately, this will lead to engaged board members who look forward to attending board meetings… instead of finding reasons not to attend.
Do you need help in putting together a board agenda that inspires, engages and motivates? Call us, we can help.
Members of the Faith Based Nonprofit Resource Center have access to a Board Meeting Agenda Template that can be used to implement the approach described above.