Unproductive board meetings are a plague to a lot of non-profit organizations. These dysfunctional discussions are obstacles towards growth and fundraising efforts and frustrate and confuse members of the board and staff, which further reduces productivity.
There is no reason that a board should be stuck in meetings hell. It is completely within the board’s power to move an organization closer to its goals and provide the support it needs. With a few of the following best practices, you can increase meeting productivity and send empty seats and unproductive discussions into the distant past.
Combat boredom by cutting through redundancies. Board members get tired of identical committee reports filled with figures and motions. Instead of presenting these at the top of the meeting, send materials to members ahead of time and kick off the meeting with an inspirational statement. A good way to do this is to begin by highlighting the non-profit mission and stating the purpose of the meeting: to vote on certain issues, or to set a financial strategy, etc.
Three days before the meeting is held, send out important resources and details about the meeting, including committee reports and the upcoming meeting agenda. Assign an objective for the meeting that will require members to read the material – such as “we will be discussing sections A-C with the Chairman”. A three-day head start gives members a chance to review and come up with questions, but is short enough to keep the information relevant. Make sure that this packet is sent separately from other board updates and information, so that members can focus on digesting the meeting materials.
Most board meetings start a couple of minutes behind schedule because one or more of the members join late. If you allow this once or twice, it will foster a habit, and soon everyone will assume that they have five or ten extra minutes to get to the meeting.
If you keep to a strict policy of starting and ending the meetings on time, people will begin to show up on time, especially if you make sure that all discussions are important. Another good way to encourage timeliness is to ensure that the Chairman or CEO is present at each meeting. No one wants to be shown up in front of the board’s leadership.
Instead of talking about the updates that have already been sent in the pre-meeting packet, skip to the meat and potatoes of the meeting. This will motivate the Chairman or CEO to continue to attend, and will encourage everyone to read all materials ahead of time. Use a strong meeting agenda [link to agendas post] as a map for the discussion and stick to the order and time allotted for each topic as much as possible. Start with the most important items and work your way down. This will further encourage people to arrive on time.
It’s almost comical that in every organization there are at least one or two people who dominate the discussion, often with irrelevant information. Everyone should speak to the whole group, not at anyone, and the purpose of a comment should always be to move the discussion forward. If you have a particularly large or feisty group, there’s no harm in reminding everyone of the ground rules at the beginning of the meeting. Additionally, whoever is in charge of running the meeting should exercise the authority to call upon other members or gracefully shut down unproductive rants.
On the other side of the coin, the environment needs to be a friendly and safe place for people to share their thoughts without judgment. The best way to avoid rants and rabbit holes is to provide a platform outside of the meeting where members can express themselves and respond freely, such as a discussion board. [link to BM features page]
At the end of each meeting, it is important that the board takes decisive action. The action could be a vote, an assignment of tasks, or an agreement that members will hold an event or accompany an executive to a special meeting. Every actionable item should have a member and an accountability activity attached to it. Such as: Dorothy will arrange a fundraising event and contact members via email for attendance suggestions. The person in charge of recording meeting minutes should document all of this information and plug it into the board’s management platform after the meeting, assigning members and due dates.
While holdings meetings can seem daunting, it only takes a bit of strategy and a few tweaks to turn them into productive activities that people can rally around.
For support with scheduling meetings, sharing information, and assigning follow-ups, sign up for a free trial of Board Management’s productivity platform.