Unmute Your Board

Victoria Prevatt
August 25, 2021

Let’s Reimagine Board Meetings

If an alien landed here on Planet Earth and wanted to understand how your organization is making an impact in the world, would a visit to your next board meeting be the best opportunity to learn?

I believe the nonprofit board room should be home to the most robust, creative, intentional, and exciting conversations in a community.

Yet,  board meetings often go a little something like this…

Approve minutes from last meeting ✅
Review financial statements ✅
Executive Director report ✅
(Lackluster) Committee reports ✅
(Maybe) New  Business ✅
Adjourn ✅

Is that your typical board agenda? If so, then don’t be surprised when your board members are not enthusiastically sharing your story, recruiting new members and raising money for your mission. It starts in the board room.

How can you move from an audience board to a participating board?

5 Ways To Engage Your Board with Better Board Meetings

1. Adopt a Consent Agenda.
Here’s a resource from the National Council on Nonprofits to get you started. Consent agendas save time by streamlining your meetings.  Click here to learn what it is and how to get started.

2. Role Play.
That’s right, give your board members a role to play at the meeting. For example, assign someone to be The Greeter. The Greeter arrives a few minutes early, welcomes others, ensures others have what they need, and gets new members or special guests introduced. Another example, assign someone the role of “Follow Upper.” This person takes responsibility for connecting with members who weren’t able to attend by sharing a quick update afterwards in a personal email or phone call, sharing what was discussed and any “homework” for the next meeting. Other roles are Time Keeper, Devil’s Advocate, Mission Control, Ice Breaker, Curiosity Peek-er, etc. Find roles that fit the unique style and culture of your board. (Oh, and it’s okay for this to be FUN. ?)

3.  Give Meaningful Homework.
Give your board members something to read, watch, or listen to before your next board meeting. A short article, a Ted Talk, a podcast, a program report from a staff person, data/trends, policy or upcoming legislation that impacts your mission.  Set aside time on the agenda for open discussion. Assign a “Facilitator” to ask questions, ensure people are talking and all voices are heard. Make sure your boardroom is a place where people are being educated – not just about your organization, but the larger mission you were founded to serve. Here’s a good Ted Talk to get you started: The Way We Think About Charity Is Dead Wrong

4.  Clarity on Agendas.
Design an agenda that clearly shows expectations along the way. For example, note time frames and if the agenda item is “For Discussion, ” “Brainstorming Ideas,” or “For Decision.” This way, board members know what is expected of them as you move through the items.

5. Have a Meeting About the Meeting.
Yes, we’ve all been there. A meeting that could have been an email, a meeting to prepare for another meeting, a wasted hour that we’ll never get back. However, if you want your board meetings to be engaging and interesting, it’s important to talk about what that means to your board. Shifting the board meeting culture takes work, creativity, and strategy.  If you want to make a change, engage 2 or 3 board members in a “Better Meetings” task force. Seek input from board members on what they would like to learn about, how often/long they are willing to meet, what they wish they knew about your organization, etc. Talking candidly about the meeting style and structure is often the first best step in changing it.

(Bonus: All of these work whether you’re in the Board Room or the Zoom Room!)

Keep up the Good Works!

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