Ten Steps to More Effective and Ultimately, Better Board Meetings
Nonprofit board members commonly complain that board meetings often are boring and unproductive, but implementing a few practices can strengthen their effectiveness while energizing them and ultimately creating better board meetings.
One survey indicates that professionals spend an average of 61 hours per month in meetings – and they consider 50% of these sessions to have been fruitless. Surely, we can do better, and can raise the bar from “having a quorum” to having awesome and better board meetings.
In their book Switch, Chip & Dan Heath make three important distinctions that are worth considering in relation to meetings:
- What looks like a people problem is often a situation problem.
- What looks like resistance is often confusion.
- What looks like laziness is often exhaustion.
Many meetings, unwittingly, are set up to be unproductive:
- We often meet too often.
- We meet in drab spaces.
- We meet at the end of the day (most common time is 7 – 9 p.m.).
- We send members material to review last minute. (“Please read this 15-page report and be prepared to discuss tomorrow.”)
- We give vague directions. (“We could use your help with fundraising!”)
- We forget to thank them.
With that in mind, here are simple practices that we recommend at RAINMAKER that can improve board meetings:
- Start the Meeting Before the Meeting – When planning a meeting, first ask, “Why are we meeting?” and “Who should participate?” (If the answer is something akin to “Well, the Development Committee meets every third Thursday,” please dig deeper for a rationale).
To read more, see Eric’s article on the Massachusetts Nonprofit Network Advice Column on how to plan and implement better board meetings.