It’s Time to Move From ‘Bored’ to Stimulating Board Meetings
I was recently asked to make a presentation at a hospital foundation’s board of directors meeting. The foundation executive director wanted me to speak on how to engage his board members in fundraising. I truly enjoy teaching and speaking to groups, so I was prepared. The secondary benefit for me in meeting with this group was to watch the executive director interact with his board chair and board members and see how the meeting was directed.
As I was the last speaker on the agenda, I immediately began to take meeting notes and critique the effectiveness of the meeting. This particular activity was very well attended, with more than 20 volunteers from all aspects of the community who were extremely engaged in this working lunch meeting. As I witnessed all aspects of the board meeting, I was trying to determine if the meeting was truly effective and successful. I was wondering if I, and other board members, would find this board meeting to be boring or stimulating.
What elements make a board meeting successful?
According to the article titled, “7 Secrets for Successful Board Meetings,” effective board meetings are critical to keep board members engaged and excited about your organization.
Here are some tips that might ensure successful board meetings in the future:
- Starting with clear expectations leads to smooth sailing by board members.
- Assigning homework helps meetings move forward instead of looking back.
- Developing focused agendas (and sticking to them!) helps ensure efficient meetings.
- Effective meeting minutes can save time and track progress.
- Building connections can help develop a team atmosphere.
- We all want to know we’re doing a good job, so measure board effectiveness.
- Board members who enjoy their role are more committed and also great role models.
Set a friendly tone at the outset of the meetings to ensure board members feel relaxed. Make sure your recruit an effective board team.
In the book, “How to Hold Effective Nonprofit Board Meetings,” the authors make key tips with respect to holding efficient meetings. These tips include scheduling a meeting between the executive director and board president prior to the meeting, send an announcement of the meeting to all board members 10 days to two weeks before a board meeting, limit the length of the meeting to two hours or less if possible, try to find a conference room for the meeting, stick to the agenda, follow Robert’s Rules of Order and thank your board.
According to Fundraising Authority, dysfunctional board meetings hurt a large number of nonprofits. In order to make sure board members look forward to future board meetings, use the following seven strategies to make your next board meeting productive and successful.
- Start with the mission and tell an emotional story relating to the mission.
- Have an agenda.
- Send a pre-meeting packet.
- Start and end meetings on time.
- Make your board meetings about decisions, not updates.
- Don’t let one or two board members dominate.
- Ask for action.
Most nonprofits can go from unproductive to super productive board meetings with less than a year of effort.
Nonprofit Hub provides seven lessons he learned to make his board meetings more productive, which are the following:
- The meeting starts before the meeting. Have pre-meeting planning.
- Agenda setting. Make the agenda effective and stimulating.
- Team building. Spend a little meeting time getting to know each other.
- Keep detailed minutes.
- Listen and ask for opinions. Ask everyone to contribute to the meeting.
- Recognize and thank board members for their time, talent and treasure.
- Review action items and determine next steps.
Leading a meeting takes leadership, organization and clear expectations.
Fast Company states that the best board members will trample each other to the exit door if board meetings are handled poorly, so follow these meeting dos and don’ts.
- Allow the CEO to lecture the board.
- Let committee chairs recite a series of reports.
- Fail to provide financial information.
- Allow board members to chat on irrelevant matters.
- Let the board discuss day to day operations.
- Allow contentious board members to hijack the meetings.
- Start and end board meetings on time.
- Make sure board members know who everyone is.
- The board chair leads the meeting with the CEO at the chair’s side.
- Board materials are sent four to five days in advance.
- Extra copies of board materials are available at meetings.
- The board chair should recognize board member contributions at meeting.
- Routine matters are addressed at top of meeting.
- The CEO and board chair should make brief presentations.
- The centerpiece of meetings should be a robust board discussion around key strategic issues.
- Brief discussion should be held around committee reports.
- The chair should conclude the meeting thanking board members and providing next steps.
- After the meeting, the board chair should make sure the CEO, staff and committee chairs follow up to engage board members.
With respect to the board meeting I attended, I was very pleased with the pace of the meeting, content shared and involvement by the board. The foundation executive director and board chair made brief remarks and recognized others in the room. The energy was maintained throughout the meeting and the word transparency was used quite often during the meeting. The board deftly handled negative and positive issues in an excellent spirit. I totally enjoyed my involvement in that meeting and congratulated the leadership on a well-run meeting. This meeting example proved not to be boring, but inspiring, which all board meetings should seek to achieve.
F. Duke Haddad, EdD, CFRE, is currently associate director of development, director of capital campaigns and director of corporate development for The Salvation Army Indiana Division in Indianapolis, Indiana. In addition, he is also president of Duke Haddad and Associates, LLC, and freelance instructor for Nonprofit Web Advisor.
He has been a contributing author to NonProfit PRO for the past 13 years.
He received his doctorate degree from West Virginia University with an emphasis on education administration, master’s degree from Marshall University with an emphasis in public administration and a bachelor’s degree from West Virginia University in business administration, with an emphasis in marketing/management. He has also done post graduate work at the University of Louisville.