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How to Organize Better Board Meetings

Whether your association or nonprofit board meets monthly, annually, or somewhere in between, practices that waste time or dilute your focus can be a drain on effectiveness. To provide the best possible leadership, you need to run focused, effective meetings. Let’s review a few techniques to improve them.

Set and send the agenda

The chair should compose the agenda early enough to be sent to board members at least 48 hours (preferably one week) prior to the meeting. It’s also a good idea to email board members and top-level staff prior to creating the agenda to ask for any items that need to be added. This will reduce the chance that something important is forgotten, then brought up in New Business and kicked down the road.

Always include an executive session

Inclusion of an executive session on every agenda is a matter of debate in some quarters, but we’re solidly on the side of including it every time.

Individual board members may be reluctant to ask for an executive session, or the need for one may become apparent very soon before a meeting. The bottom line? Be prepared. If a session is needed, you’ll have it on the agenda; if it isn’t, you can skip over it.

Move updates out of the meeting

Verbal reports from staff can take up a lot of your time (not to mention theirs) and can be best handled with a written report or simple email. This lets the board focus their time on strategic decisions. In fact, this principle can be applied to updates from the chair, other board members, and even subcommittees.

Adopt a consent agenda

A consent agenda is a list of non-controversial items subject to board vote. It is moved for approval as a single item. If any board member feels something on the list requires discussion, they may remove it, and the board must consider it separately.

This process saves time by handling “rubber stamp” items in a single vote, while allowing proper oversight to be exercised if anyone has questions or concerns.

Send packets early in electronic form

This practice gives board members more time to review documents and ask non-strategic questions. In today’s digital environment, it’s easy to send an update or addition.

Always start and end on time

The famed football coach Vince Lombardi told players that if they weren’t present 15 minutes before a meeting started, they were late. You don’t have to go that far but starting meetings right on time builds a culture of punctuality and sends everyone a clear message that they and their time are valued. Stick to your scheduled end time as well, if you have one.

Use Robert’s Rules

With no traffic laws or established driving rules, our roads would be a chaotic mess. Robert’s Rules of Order provides clear, time-tested “rules of the road” for group deliberations. They can streamline discussion, eliminate unnecessary contention, and keep your meetings from wandering into the wrong lanes. As the author himself said, “Where there is no law...there is the least of real liberty.”

The full Robert’s Rules is quite a thick tome, but don’t let it intimidate you; concise editions are easy to understand and apply.

Create clear, concise minutes

The most important consideration in creating minutes is to make it clear what occurred without including too much detail. Where possible, keep the minutes to:

● The main facts: Who was there, call to order and adjournment, motions and votes, etc.

● Arrivals and departures if members come late or leave early.

● Questions asked and the resulting answers.

● Use “Discussion followed” for discussion prior to a vote.

Make an exception to that last point if something said during the conversation must be included to make the resulting decision clearer. But avoid blow-by-blow recounting, which usually adds content without adding value.

Could Your Association Organize Better Board Meetings by Working With an AMC?

At V2, we’ve provided full service and outsourced services for national associations for many years and can deliver the resources and expertise that help you thrive. Get in touch with us today, and let’s see how we can improve your board governance together.


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