Eliminate ‘Boring’ Board Meetings for Good
In 2018, I wrote an article about developing stimulating board meetings. Several of my readers contacted me for continuous advice, which I was happy to provide. Then I was invited to three separate board meetings for various organizations. Based on these disasters, I decided to once again address this topic.
In each of these meetings that I attended, the meetings did not start on time, did not follow an agenda, had dominant board members ramble on without focus, encouraged no global discussion and lasted far beyond the scheduled time frame. In each board case, most board members had been on their boards for many years and did not have term limits. Yet, to their credit, I was asked by these boards how to improve their board and board meetings.
My colleague, Gail Perry, also addressed the topic of board meeting improvement in this article. In her article, she pointed out that if you want to change the world, you need to have engaging, interesting meetings. Ways she noted to improve board meetings were: focus the agenda on results; be creative with the agenda; focus on problems, challenges or broad issues; plan big; look at your board meetings as cheerleading sessions; use consent agendas; interview the executive director; select a theme for each meeting; create “mission moments” in every board meeting; and break into groups.
A Boardable article noted it is easy for boards to become “bored.” Board members want to go to a meeting knowing that their time and talent is valued. Boardable’s top 10 ways to energize board meetings are to start and end on time; meet at a different place; use a consent agenda for routine business; turn the agenda upside down by discussing the most important items first; make sure that every board member says at least one thing at the meeting; present a heart-warming success story to remind them of the mission; have an elevator speech contest; evaluate your meetings at least once a year; enforce an attendance policy to encourage attendance; and have meetings only when there is work to do. Use software to centralize communication between you and the board.
If your board meetings consist of you lecturing your board members who are sleeping through the meeting, your meetings have taken a turn for the worst. All-Business suggests that you throw creativity into your board meetings. Creative ways to make your board meetings less boring are to have every board member bring one idea to the meeting; focus on core topics only; recognize good work by those worthy of being recognized; opt for a change of scenery; create a meeting online; meet in a casual and fun environment; start on a personal note; and plot your past and future achievements.
According to a Forbes article featuring “bored” boards, a board of directors can be a boon or a bane for leaders of an organization. The staff leader of the organization can make meetings run more smoothly by getting the technology right, enforcing the board’s mission, invite disagreement by having ample time for discussion and idea-sharing. The formality of Robert’s Rules of Order should be adhered to at every meeting. Meeting leaders must maintain the conduct and process that drives an orderly meeting.
A Nonprofit Hub article relating to boring board meetings promotes the theory that many people view board of directors’ meetings as drab and high-level mumbo jumbo. Key points from this article state that board meeting planning and logistics are very important. The agenda must be set up effectively to minimize waste, and the meeting agenda must be snappy.
Encourage interaction between board members, and strive to build the board as a team. Keep detailed minutes, listen and ask for opinions, plus recognize and thank them. Board members always need to feel wanted and appreciated. Review action items for the next meeting several times. Provide assignments for board members and timelines for accomplishing tasks. Keep the directors working between board meetings. Leading a board meeting takes skill, leadership, organization and clear expectations.
At this point, you should understand what it takes to keep your board’s disorganized meetings on track and organized to avoid boring meetings. A key point should be mentioned with respect to board meetings: You need to work with board leadership to identify, recruit, orient and train new board members. If you have excited and motivated board members, they will want to attend board meetings and participate in board meetings. They should move and push you to improve board meetings and all functions relating to board development and success.
This process will take time and constant attention. Seek best-of-class examples from your best board members, as they probably serve on other nonprofit boards. If you are bored at your board meeting, you can bet your board members are bored, too. Do not accept this scenario. Eliminate boring board meetings for good. Do something about it, and start today. Your next board meeting is right around the corner.
Duke has extensive experience as a nonprofit practitioner, author, lecturer and consultant. He has been a contributing author to NonProfit PRO for the last 11 years. He has been a long-standing member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals where he was previously named the AFP Indiana Chapter Fundraising Executive of the Year and has held the CFRE designation for many years.
He received his doctorate degree from West Virginia University with an emphasis in education administration, master's degree from Marshall University with an emphasis in public administration and a bachelor's degree from West Virginia University with an emphasis in marketing/management. He has also completed post graduate work at the University of Louisville.
He is currently executive director of development for The Salvation Army Indiana Division in Indianapolis, Indiana. Contact Duke at firstname.lastname@example.org or 317-224-1029.