9 Keys to Energizing Your Board Meetings
Great board meetings create a climate for engaged decision-making that allows you to keep and attract top-notch board members.
A few years ago I sat in on an organization's board meeting before being asked to join the board. The meeting was so chaotic I wanted to flee. However, after working with the board and staff leadership, we were able to change those dynamics. Now the board is functioning more effectively, meetings are productive and we are positioned to attract the caliber of board members necessary to take the organization to the next level.
Almost any meeting should have goals and desired outcomes. Here are nine keys to an effective and energizing board meeting:
- Prepare. Board materials should be carefully prepared and sent at least 48 hours in advance (preferably four or five days). Be sure materials are relevant and concise, and invite the board to request additional information.
- Delegate. Use a functioning committee system where committees meet between board meetings, with chairs then bringing relevant motions or recommendations to the board.
- Stage. Be sure all ingredients for a successful meeting are in place. Have a professional, comfortable setting. Provide refreshments or a meal — at least water and snacks. Make sure people know each other, and if appropriate, provide name tags and placeholders. Set the room where board members can see each other and are in the closest proximity to each other as possible.
- Ensure. Board members need to function in a setting of collegiality, openness, respect and confidentiality. This takes ongoing work and coaching. Carefully monitor the culture of your board and the atmosphere of board meetings. Provide good leadership so no individual or agenda hijacks a meeting.
- Respect. Your board members are very busy. Respect their commitment by always starting and ending meetings on time. You also show them respect by making the board meeting a productive and positive experience.
- Focus. Be sure your agenda is strategic. Address routine matters quickly at the top of the meeting. Develop an agenda with insight from the chair and other officers. Be sure that the chair is comfortable with leading a meeting and orchestrating strategic discussion.
- Thank. Set a positive culture by recognizing board members for their leadership, especially individuals with exemplary service. Invite and recognize staff members to the meeting.
- Inspire. Always have a "mission moment" — preferably a testimonial from someone who is benefitting from your organization. This will inspire your board and empower board members as ambassadors who can tell your story.
- Follow-up. Send a follow-up e-mail on next steps to the board within two days of the meeting. This can precede the official minutes. Be sure that you follow up on discussion, questions and next steps.
A successful board meeting engages and educates your board on key strategic issues affecting your organization. Board members should leave a meeting inspired about the work of the organization and know what they can and should do in the weeks to come.
Looking for Jeff? You'll find him either on the lake, laughing with good friends, or helping nonprofits develop to their full potential.
Jeff believes that successful fundraising is built on a bedrock of relevant, consistent messaging; sound practices; the nurturing of relationships; and impeccable stewardship. And that organizations that adhere to those standards serve as beacons to others that aspire to them. The Bedrocks & Beacons blog will provide strategic information to help nonprofits be both.
Jeff has more than 25 years of nonprofit leadership experience and is a member of the NonProfit PRO Editorial Advisory Board.