Board meeting: An event where minutes are kept and hours are lost. –Unknown


Do your board meetings feel like a necessary evil? Well, there's hope. You can have better board meetings.

Whether you're a board member, an officer or the board chair, there are things you can do to improve your board meetings.


IF YOU'RE THE BOARD CHAIR, here are some tips for more efficient and more engaging board meetings.

  • Have a meeting with the executive director in advance.
    Remember, the board president (not the executive director) is responsible for leading board meetings. Staff may help organize the meeting, but it's the chair's job to lead the actual meetings and the board itself. Meet with the director to create the agenda and to understand any issues at hand that need the board's attention.
  • Send out all meeting materials at least three days prior to the meeting.
    Your meeting package might include this month's meeting agenda, the previous meeting's minutes, the current financial reports and any committee reports. By sending these out ahead of time, board members can read them all in advance, instead of listening to reports at the meeting.
  • At the meeting, have an agenda and stick to it.
    Honor your fellow board member's time by starting each meeting on time – and ending on time. (Trust me, you'll be a hero if you adjourn early.)
  • Get more done in less time.
    Consider using a consent agenda, where a single motion carries regular business such as approval of minutes and acceptance of committee reports. That way, the board can focus on big picture items instead of meeting minutia.
  • Share a "mission moment."
    Each meeting, take a few minutes to share a story about the good work of your organization. Sharing stories (especially success stories) connects people to the cause, and reminds everyone about the important work your organization is doing.

IF YOU'RE THE BOARD TREASURER, try a different way of showing financial reports:

  • Present a financial "dashboard" of organizational health
    Financials aren't everyone's forte. So instead of producing system-generated reports, consider a one-page summary with key indicators like
  • Month-to-date performance (compared to last year)
    Year-to-date performance (compared to last year)
    Number of months (or days) of operating reserves on-hand
    Number of new donors
    Number of lapsed donors
    Number of board members who have made a financial gift this year 

  • Do the math (so others won't have to)
    Another disadvantage of system-generated reports is they don't always show the variance. Be sure your financial reports clearly show where your organization is ahead or behind.

    Color coded indicators (green = healthy, yellow = watch, red = warning) are another way for the board members to understand the financials at-a-glance.


IF YOU'RE THE BOARD SECRETARY, try these ways to document who's there and what happens at your board meeting:

  • Attendance record
    Minutes should list who was present, as well as the time and location of the meeting. Consider circulating a sign-in sheet at meetings (names down the left side, meeting dates in columns across the top). Not only does this provide the secretary with an accurate record of who was there, it also allows everyone to see who should get a star for perfect attendance.
  • Remember, they're minutes, not a missive
    Minutes should accurately summarize any discussion (and the decisions made), but they don't need to capture all of the banter and conversation that often accompanies such conversations.
    Also, make them easy to read – literally. Consider formatting, font size, etc. when publishing the minutes in written form.


IF YOU'RE A BOARD MEMBER, here are some ideas to make your board experience a great one.

  • Show up on time and stay for the entire meeting
    Technically, you're needed so the board has a quorum and can conduct business.
    Furthermore, being fully present at the meeting allows you to hear and engage in conversations that aren't always captured in meeting minutes.
  • Be prepared
    Read the minutes and the committee reports prior to the meeting. Come prepared to ask questions or make a motion to approve.
  • Be fully present
    As a board member, your input and involvement at board meetings is critical. So silence your phone. Don't check emails on your phone or tablet. Respect the other people in the room and remember the reason you're all there.
  • Learn how to read and understand financial statements
    Among your other duties, board members are charged with protecting the organization's assets and providing proper financial oversight. This is not the responsibility of the Finance Committee – this is the responsibility of every board member. Be sure you have a basic understanding of financial statements so you can ask appropriate questions. And if you don't understand, ask.
  • Learn how to be a better board member
    Ask your Board Development Committee to present short, mini-trainings that will help you and your peers become better board members. For instance, at a board meeting, talk about why it's important for board members to make "thank you" calls to donors, then pair up and do a quick role-play.

What should you take away from this?

Great board meetings are possible, but they don't just happen. They take planning, preparation and a commitment from everyone, from the board president and officers to each board member.

Want more ideas? Check out this post: "Do You Have Bored Members?"


If you're thinking about board training, let's talk! I'd love to customize a training just for you and your board. Choose from one-hour to full day. Contact Laura for information.


TIPS OF THE TRADE

Yes, Virginia. Great board meetings do exist. You can evaluate your own board meeting's effectiveness with this checklist from BoardSource

And don't miss these resources that will help you have your best board meeting yet. 

HubSpot shares these 7 tips for running effective board meetings

The Best Board Meeting Ever? Check out these 10 must-haves from Les Wallace, PhD.

Susan Detwiler shares 7 ways to keep your board focused, so you're spending time talking about real issues


Third Sector Consulting helps nonprofits find more funders, win more grants and raise more money.

Send a message to start the conversation and learn how Laura can help you and your organization.