In my last blog post, I discussed the importance of the agenda in a board meeting and ways to restructure it to focus board time on strategic and generative topics. In part 2, we will focus on the roles and responsibilities of the nonprofit board and their use of effective meeting practices.
It is a time-consuming process to prepare for a successful board meeting. The Board Chair serves a crucial role in the planning and development of the meeting agenda topics. Through collaboration with the Executive Director, the Board Chair ensures that the topics for the meeting are appropriate and relevant for board discussion. Together, these two leaders confirm that the agenda is not report-driven or operational but allows for active discussion and debate about critical issues the organization is navigating.
As mentioned in my previous blog, the agenda sets the tone. If you serve as a Board Chair, consider moving the items that require a board vote to a consent agenda. This allows for the discussion topics to have adequate time. Highlight the agenda items that will be the main points of discussion for the upcoming meeting, so that board members can prepare their talking points beforehand and be ready for a thoughtful conversation.
Board members should know the main discussion points well ahead of time for an upcoming meeting as well as review the agenda, and any reports sent in advance. The goal of meeting preparation is to make board members feel included and productive. Dedicated board members should feel that their time is well spent, that their input is valuable, and that their work is appreciated. A well-run meeting should leave members invigorated about the work that truly matters and the accomplishments of the organization. They should expect that their Board Chair will conduct the meeting in an organized manner and frame the discussion items in a fair and unbiased method.
A key component of the Board Chair’s role is to facilitate an engaged board. Board Chairs may want to educate themselves on leading a vigorous discussion-based meeting. Consider selecting a facilitation technique like Robert’s Rules of Order for Meetings that structures the meeting using orderly democratic principles. A successful Board Chair will help draw out quiet board members and allow for stimulating discussion. Strong relationships and partnerships are key to strengthening board members’ participation.
The Executive Director’s role in a meeting should be to view it as an opportunity to benefit from the collective wisdom of the board members. They should assist the Board Chair in making it an engaging, welcoming environment and be excited to interact with everyone as they prioritize the matters at hand.
Senior leadership and staff’s roles in the board meeting are to be available for consultation and support for the Executive Director. Staff does not typically engage in discussion or debate related to the work of the board unless invited or pertinent to the conversation.
It takes skill, time, and talent to ensure that board meetings are effective. Achieving productive board meetings is possible when all members understand their role within the meeting, the expectations of the meeting are set beforehand and when the environment is engaging with the help of leadership.
Do you have further questions regarding your organization’s board meeting structure? At BerganKDV, we help nonprofits transform their internal processes by providing industry expertise from team members who participate in various boards. Contact us to learn more about the array of solutions we offer to help enhance your organization’s mission and impact.
Join me in my next and final blog in the series where we will discuss the power of exceptional boards in their governance role.