Code Red: Board Meeting Attendance
Poor attendance can really interrupt the flow of information on a volunteer nonprofit board of directors. This can lead to knowledge gaps, lack of discussion on important topics and the inability to reach quorum when voting on issues.
These issues could be caused by anything from a lack of time and board members feeling stretched thin, to the inefficiency of the way meetings are run. Some members may even not feel useful at these meetings, which could have an effect on attendance. If this is a problem for you and your board, then it needs to be fixed ASAP. Here is how:
Set the Standard
Setting the expectations for board member attendance should be the first priority. Be sure to gather input from the entire board and create a standard everyone agrees to. This is important as it holds the board accountable and can set the expectations for improving meeting management moving forward.
If a member isn’t adhering to the attendance standards, try following up with a personal conversation. Treating and incentivizing members for their attendance could also be a good way to encourage participation. Test out a point-reward system or leaderboard with prizes for those with the best attendance.
Be Open to Feedback
It is important to monitor meeting effectiveness, and one way to do that is through an efficiency assessment. This can provide feedback from board members and shed light on the reasons for inconsistent attendance. Use the feedback you get to set the standards of schedule, frequency and guidelines for meetings.
Figure out things like how many meetings can be missed and how frequently meetings are needed. It is important to take this information, stay on top of it and make sure everyone else is informed and on the same page.
Check the Boxes
Create a checklist that is effective and applies to your meetings. There are many agenda-makers out there that can help you plan and execute effective meetings. Checklists can help you perfect your meeting-planning and conducting skills, making them more productive overall. Format your agendas to meet all of the items on your list.
This way, you never forget the necessary topics for each and every meeting.
Establish Ground Rules
It is never too early or too late to establish the basics of behavior and decorum, especially if your meetings are a little turbulent. If certain individuals are constantly interrupting or causing conflict, call them out.
Your board sets a standard for a reason, and they should adhere to it. For resources on handling these types of friction, searching for “Robert’s Rule of Order” can provide helpful insight.
Consistency Is Not Always Key
Yes, board meetings need to be consistently run in order to maintain expectations, but the approach does not. Try changing up the venue or have a different main topic each meeting to avoid members losing interest.
Even setting aside 15 minutes in the beginning for networking and socializing can help get those side conversations out of the way and open communication for the board as a whole. Keeping things fresh and exciting goes a long way.
Plan, Plan, Plan
Planning is key. Board members can tell if you prepared for the meeting and each session needs to count. Planning ahead of time can keep meetings efficient and on task. Make sure you keep communication open before and after meetings, notifying members well ahead of time and updating information on websites and other board management platforms.
Implementing all of the above into your board meetings will help you improve not only the attendance but the expectations of all. Open communication on how meetings are going to run, their purpose and the value of them will go a long way. Keep your expectations high, and your board meetings will be better for it.
Jeb Banner is the founder and CEO of Boardable, a nonprofit board management software provider. He is also the founder of two nonprofits, The Speak Easy and Musical Family Tree, as well as a board member of United Way Central Indiana and ProAct. Jeb is based in Indianapolis, Ind.
Boardable is an online board management portal that centralizes communication, document storage, meeting planning and everything else that goes into running a board of directors.