Wednesday, February 6, 2013

What’s on Your Association Board’s Agenda?

Don't Waste Your Board's Time

Over the last 35 years, I’ve participated – either as a volunteer or as a staff professional – in 257 board meetings of local, regional or national associations or nonprofit organizations.

While no two organizations are alike, they share a common element: the board meeting. 

And, man have I been in some really awful board meetings. But, some really good ones too.

Board time is a nonrenewable resource ... don’t waste it!

Here are 8 elements to help make meetings meaningful for your association:
  1. Never hold a meeting without an agenda
  2. Insist on a starting and ending time
  3. Make the main thing the main thing
  4. Use a consent agenda so routine items don’t consume
  5. Insist on great staff work
  6. Provide agenda and materials at least 6 days prior to the meeting
  7. Ensure that everyone participates (the chair’s key job!)
  8. Create a culture of board members coming prepared for the meeting
Thanks to Associations Now and Mark Athitakis for leading me to this discussion via Mark’s blog titled Preparing for Meetings, Preparing for the Future

In his post, Mark referred to Simone Joyauz’s article What Do You Talk About at Your Board Meetings? that ran in NPQ (NonProfit Quarterly).

Here are the highlights of that piece:
  • Don’t listen to reports. You can read reports. Don’t waste time reviewing reports – unless it’s a precursor to an important conversation. Instead, design board meetings for strategic conversation about important items.
  • Board meetings require intentional design and good facilitation. Board meetings should be a gathering of wise and experienced people who talk about important things. Sometimes the board makes decisions. Sometimes the board learns and explores through conversation, preparing to make decisions in the future. Definitely, board members ask strategic questions, even cage-rattling questions. Board members probe to ensure that they are drawing on information that is accurate, insightful, and useful.
  • Design the agenda based on what is most important to your organization at this time. Handle routine matters quickly. Put the most important items at the top of the agenda. Provide adequate background information in advance of the meeting so that people come prepared.
  • Don’t talk about management stuff. Even if you’re a small organization, don’t talk about management stuff at board meetings.
How about using these questions for periodic board meeting agendas?
  • How is our adaptive capacity?
  • How are we foreseeing the unforeseeable?
  • How effectively do we recognize, anticipate, prepare for and respond to different situations?
  • How effectively do we anticipate unintended consequences?
  • What might have once been inconceivable – but now seems as if it might become inevitable?
  • What is of concern that, if we don’t address it, can become alarming?
One final thought from Joyauz: 
  • Do not provide extra copies of materials at meetings. Expect – insist – that your board members come prepared, with their materials in hand. Board members should read the material in advance of the meeting, making notes, highlighting key items.
What are you doing to help your board in its leadership role?

1 comment:

  1. I like this post, enjoyed this one, Thanks for sharing this very good post. Very inspiring! (as always, btw)