What percentage of your board meeting is spent discussing the past?
Do a majority of your board members speak in a meeting? Or is it mostly listening to a select few?
Are your board and committee meetings engaging? Or are they dreaded obligations?
Is your organization is stuck using a traditional meeting structure that looks like this?
- Call to order
- Approve last meeting’s minutes
- Board chair comments and any guest presentations
- Executive director report
- Treasurer report and review of financials
- Development committee report
- Marketing committee report
- Program committee report
- Nominating committee report
- Old business
- New business
We have good news. Board meetings don’t have to be boring.
Our golden rules for dynamic board meeting are: Focus on dialogue, debate, and decisions, not updates. No monologues.
To revamp your meeting structure, we suggest the following:
First, highlight the good work of the committees in a standardized committee report format and distribute in the board packet in advance of the meeting. It’s imperative that board members read beforehand and only spend meeting time on questions rather than report outs of activities.
Second, utilize a consent agenda to approve all the minutes, financials, committee reports, and other perfunctory items that look backward at the past.
Third, create a calendar of strategic topics and cyclical initiatives that look forward, solve for tomorrow, and encourage a broad discussion of ideas.
- Strategic topics are those big items that don’t happen every year but are imperative to the health of the organization, such as strategic planning, contract negotiations, succession planning, by-law review, industry trends, research, or feasibility studies.
- Cyclical initiatives are annual items that fall in a certain timeframe each year, such as the gala in February, budget approval in May, board retreat in September, and the chief executive’s evaluation in November.
Fourth, build an agenda that starts with a story to illustrate mission impact, then spend the bulk of the time discussing assigned strategic and cyclical items. End the meeting with a consent agenda.
Fifth, don’t meet monthly. Your board should only need to meet six times per year, with committee meetings in the alternating months.
When you start with engagement, utilize the talent at the table, and honor everyone’s time, you will give board members a meaningful reason to attend. And, when you do, we promise that you’ll answer the questions at the start of this article differently.
Article by: Kerri Laubenthal Mollard, Founder & CEO