If fundraising is the lifeblood of your nonprofit, then your board of directors is the heart that keeps the organization moving forward. You may need to get your board fundraising for that statement to be true and the board of director meetings are your best bet. Read these 7 tips to more productive meetings so that you don’t have to learn these lessons the hard way.
The first problem is that despite fundraising being an obvious responsibility for board members to engage in, the majority of board members aren’t doing it. The second problem is that despite their importance, many people view the board of director meetings as drab and high-level mumbo jumbo. However, with some planning and foresight, you can make these meetings more lively and engaging, plus build a successful fundraising board.
Here are 7 tips to more productive meetings. They will help make your board of director meetings more productive, exciting, and worthwhile.
Fun fact: a board of directors meeting doesn’t start when everyone sits around a table and the meeting is called to order. Your work starts long before then. Before the meeting, you need to take care of the logistics to make the time run smoothly. It helps to collect and send out all of the regular reports including the financials, director reports, and any other business filings that need to be reviewed prior to the meeting. Check out this guide if you need help deciding what reports your board should see. Management reports differ from traditional financial reports because they help leaders make data-driven decisions. They provide the actionable information you need to further your mission and increase outcomes.
If you send it out to the directors early, they have time to take notes, prepare questions and become more familiar with the information. Aim for at least seven days in advance.
It also helps to keep surprises to a minimum at board meetings (unless it is a birthday party). If you have any significant proposals or controversial items, it’s beneficial to give board members a heads up before the meeting. You don’t want to catch anyone off guard. This can also help you argue the merits of the proposals prior to the meeting, and it gives each of the directors time to carefully weigh the benefits of each item. Again, taking some of the thinking and digesting of ideas from the board meeting will help them run more smoothly.
There’s plenty of technology out there. Make sure that you pursue a technology designed for you, the nonprofit organization. Board management software has taken off. Here are a couple of options for nonprofits.
You can leverage several other technologies to help streamline the entire board meeting process, make sure it covers the nonprofit board meeting checkboxes. Apps like Asana and Trello make it easy for team members to check off tasks or provide updates on fundraising efforts. To-do lists, task tracking, and status updates can take minutes when done via digital means instead of communication over email or other messaging platforms, which can get bogged down in clutter due to back-and-forth conversations. Additionally, digital whiteboards make it possible to schedule upcoming tasks quickly and digitally share them with team members.
A meeting without an agenda is a recipe for disaster — no one has a clear understanding of what should be accomplished, so the conversation quickly falls away from any plan and wanders off track. Set a detailed agenda before the meeting begins and make sure everyone knows the purpose and expected outcomes of each item. Share this agenda with members well in advance, so they can come prepared with questions or feedback to contribute.
Each meeting has several regular business items that need to be covered, such as reviewing previous meeting minutes, and reports and discussing new and old business—but how you set up the meeting can dictate its effectiveness.
Darian Rodriguez argues that the consent agenda is one of the greatest things to ever happen for board meetings. Consent agendas typically contain the prior meeting’s minutes, ED reports, and routine financials that can be previewed in advance and simply accepted (or not) within the first five minutes of the board of director’s meeting.
If you are scheduled to have a long, mentally draining discussion about a future program, following it up with an in-depth review of the next year’s budget might not lead to a productive use of your time. Keep the meeting snappy, mix in breaks and don’t let the conversations get too heavy. Keep the energy up! By thinking ahead and balancing the agenda, you can create a meeting that allows you to tackle several serious topics but doesn’t drag. The other half of this comes in during the meeting. Once you set the agenda, stick to it to make sure you get everything done that you’ve planned.
To ensure your meetings stay on track, set a time limit for each agenda item. This way, you and your team are always aware of how much time is left and when it’s time to move onto the next item. Additionally, take detailed minutes at each meeting so that everyone can review what was discussed at a later date. You should also make sure someone is cleary assiged to taking notes on the meeting, whether it is you, the board’s secretary or someone else. The minutes should include a summary of points being made, actions steps, motions and other official actions. Taking detailed, thorough minutes during the meeting can help eliminate headaches later. Clear communication will keep your board members focused on one goal — the advancement of your cause through successful fundraising efforts.
It can be easy to get caught up in the discussion and focus on the direction of the conversation. If running short on time starts to be a problem, consider longer or more frequent touch bases with your members. Make sure they are a part of that conversation if the new meeting structure differs from what they originally committed to.
The board of directors that plays together stays together, right? Mostly, yes. You don’t have to play together, but you should care about the people you are working with and the board members should have an investment in what you’re doing. You should encourage sharing of personal stories and successes (during appropriate times) between board members so they get to know each other. You can also spend time at meetings doing team building activities, but make sure these aren’t forced or make anyone feel uncomfortable. The goal is the build a team and not to find new players for your rec league basketball team.
Every member of your board is important. You can make them feel more engaged by making sure everyone has the chance to contribute. Sometimes board members can be quiet because they’re overshadowed by other members, but other times they are thinking the matter over in their heads and still formulating their thoughts. It’s one thing to ask them to talk, but you should also listen to what they are saying and fit it into the context of the meeting. Allow everyone the opportunity to speak and make sure the entire board has their attention.
The members of your board of directors aren’t robots, unless you are reading this in the year 2102 and humans have been overtaken by our computer overlords. But for now, they are people and they should be recognized for their contributions both to your organization and in their everyday life. When all your hard work comes to fruition, make sure you take the time to recognize and thank your board for their efforts. Acknowledging members’ accomplishments during or after the meeting is a great way to show gratitude and keep morale high.
While this might not be tied directly to meetings, making sure that your directors know that you appreciate their work can help you have more effective meetings. If they feel appreciated, they will likely be more engaged and want to participate—you don’t have to spend money to do so either. While you can provide them with dinner or gifts, a thank-you note or a special gift unique to your nonprofit can also be just as effective. Small token gifts such as flowers or a gift card can show appreciation for members who went above and beyond in their fundraising efforts. Celebrating successes as a team can also foster engagement and excitement in future events.
This is simple and straightforward, but you should review action steps for the next meeting twice, if not three times. First, at the end of each meeting review the tasks assigned to board members and the timeline for each item. Then after the meeting, send an email out to the board members with another reminder of the action items. Maintaining accountability among your members will show them that their input is valued and encourages engagement in fundraising discussions. Follow-up emails after each meeting can also be helpful reminders of what needs to be done. Additionally, quarterly emails can help set goals, update the team on progress, and get members excited about future events. With these easy tips your team will stay enthusiastic and committed to their event all season long!
When you send out the notice of the next upcoming meeting, you can also send out another reminder of the action steps. Like we talked about in the first point, meetings don’t just happen when everyone is together. If your directors keep moving the work forward between the meetings it can help the actual meetings more productive.
As with anything, leading a board meeting takes skill. It takes leadership, organization and clear expectations. If you follow these 7 tips to more productive meetings, you’ll be off to a good start to make your board of director meetings more efficient—but also make your own adjustments based on your specific board. Before you know it, your board will be pumping like a strong, healthy heart, raising more money for your organization.
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