10 Ways to Liven Up Your Board Meetings
If you want to change the world, then you need to have engaging, interesting meetings. Boring meetings result in a bored board. And will a bored board get involved in fundraising? Probably not!
Lively meetings engage your board members and propel them into action. Deadly meetings can sap all the energy out of everyone.
Here are 10 great ways to create meetings that bring out your board’s best.
1. Focus the agenda on results
Start the meeting a bit differently. Like this: "In this meeting, we need to accomplish X and make Y decision. Is everybody OK with this plan? Is everybody OK with the timing of our discussions and the order of the agenda? We have an hour and a half. Can everybody stay for the full meeting?"
This is the way to engage board members deeply right at the start.
2. Be creative with the agenda
Roberts Rules can be quite deadly. Formal parliamentary procedure can drive the passion and enthusiasm out of any group of people!
Be creative. Can you reorder the agenda occasionally? Start with the interesting stuff first rather than minutes and committee reports?
Try to humanize your discussions to give your board members insight to the work your nonprofit is really accomplishing out in the world.
3. Focus on problems, challenges or broad issues
Bring big-picture strategic planning issues into regular board meetings. This activates your board members’ various backgrounds and skills sets, not to mention their interest.
It allows you to draw upon a deeper reservoir of their talent and energy, and gives them more interesting work.
4. Plan big
Bring big-picture strategic planning issues into regular board meetings.
For example, you could take the standard strategic planning issues focusing on organizational strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (SWOT analysis).
Divide the four subjects over four board meetings and at each meeting, take your board through a discussion or update of one of these issues.
5. Look at your board meetings as cheerleading sessions
Your meeting is an opportunity to fire up your board members and put them into action.
Try seeing the board as the team that is out on the field, with the role of the staff being there to encourage and congratulate board members: How would you stage such a session?
Identify who would need to speak in order to rev up the energy of your board.
6. Use consent agendas
Why devote valuable meeting time to routine business items that do not require much board discussion?
Mail out a consent agenda in advance that can be approved in one vote. Any member can ask that a consent agenda item be moved back into the regular agenda for discussion.
Try handling committee reports in this manner by providing written reports in the place of lengthy oral reports.
7. Interview the executive director
What keeps your executive director up at night? If you were a board member, you’d certainly want to know! And that issue may not even be on your agenda.
How about a relaxed “fireside chat” with your ED for about 10 minutes before the formal agenda begins? What an interesting discussion this could be and how engaging for board members.
8. Select a theme for each meeting
You could follow a strategy developed by former Alliance for Peacebuilding CEO Chic Dambach. He likes to select a theme for each meeting based a particular need or issue facing the organization.
He says, “This allows ample time for in-depth analysis of that topic. For particularly important issues, the theme can be repeated over the course of several meetings until the issue has been adequately addressed.”
9. Create 'mission moments' in every board meeting
Give your trustees a personal experience of your mission in action.
Use a testimonial or a story about someone touched by your organization. This could be the most powerful subject of the entire meeting.
10. Break into groups
Instead of a formal report to board members about an upcoming challenge, present the issue as a question and ask them to discuss it in small groups.
Then hold a facilitated full group discussion afterward. Having small groups enables everyone to speak, encouraging shy people, those who typically avoid speaking to the full board, to participate.
Try these ideas, and you’ll be able to create engaging, interesting meetings that spark your board members’ energy for the cause.