Improving Efficiency At Board Meetings

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Chris Mennel Chris Mennel

Unproductive board meetings waste time, demotivate board members and frustrate staff.  While most boards function relatively well, they may not be functioning at their highest level. Here are several simple changes you can make right now that will keep your meetings productive and on target.

Implement a consent agenda. A consent agenda is a single action item at the start of board meetings that typically includes board minutes, financial information, and anything else that may need approval but can be distributed and read by board members ahead of time.  Many boards start off the meeting by reading the prior minutes, but this can disengage members right off the bat.  Instead, ensure consent items are distributed in advance and save time by only discussing questions and then approving the consent agenda.

Reinforce your mission and goals. Board members rotate on and off, making it easy for management to forget that the current board members may not have a thorough knowledge of the mission and goals of the organization. Also, while an annual retreat is a good way to create goals, it shouldn’t be the only time this is done. Taking a small amount of time to update the board on what is taking place from a programming standpoint, including what new projects or tasks are coming up, and also recapping the goals identified by the board can put the rest of the meeting into perspective.  Asking a recipient who has benefited from the organization to say a few words about his/her experience can also encourage board members to work harder, give more and become more involved.

Create a detailed meeting agenda. Agendas are often standard from one meeting to the next with committee heads giving updates and then covering new and old business.  To keep meetings fresh, try creating a more detailed agenda that lists individual goals rather than a simple committee update.  While discussing these goals, select an individual to champion each goal. Then that individual will be responsible to see it through and update the board on its progress.

Begin and end each meeting on time. This will set an ongoing expectation that you value the board’s time and want the meetings to be productive and succinct. Everyone will be prepared to get down to business and stay focused. If one or two members dominate the meeting, the president can ask them to finish their points so the meeting can move on to other topics.

Conduct a Board Self-Assessment

Aside from meetings, if you don’t feel your board runs efficiently, perhaps a self-assessment will help.  

Do you have any gaps in board expertise that need to be filled?

Is the board fulfilling the organization’s mission and goals?

An assessment of how the board is performing is the best way for everyone to fully understand their roles and duties. Asking each member to reflect on his or her role will identify whether or not everyone is on the same page. Then you can make adjustments accordingly. The National Council Nonprofits has an excellent tool to assist with self-assessments.

Eventually, you will then be able to measure the board’s effectiveness in supporting the mission. Boards that assess their performance regularly perform better on core responsibilities.

Running an efficient board meeting helps everyone to stay focused, energizes board members and leads to improving the overall effectiveness of the board.

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