When your board enters a meeting with unclear expectations, not enough preparation and an overpacked agenda, nonprofit board meetings can quickly turn to “bored” meetings.
But, with a little planning and preparation, you can ensure your meeting accomplishes its ultimate goal: making certain your organization is fulfilling its mission. If you want to get the most out of your meetings, keep reading—we’ve got a few ideas and nonprofit giveaways that’ll help.
#1: Define your goals
Are you voting on new objectives? Making budget decisions? Discussing a potential new policy? Be sure everyone at the meeting is aware of your focus points and has pre-meeting access to the material that will help with decision-making, including:
- Financial reports.
- Policy drafts.
- Mission and values statements.
#2: Create a 20/20 agenda
When you’re putting together an agenda, it’s very easy to keep adding “one more thing” until the agenda becomes too full. The result? Not enough time for discussion and an excessively long meeting where less is accomplished.
To alleviate this, consider the 20/20 rule— remove 20% of your agenda and add 20% more discussion time. This will help ensure every topic gets the attention it deserves.
#3: Plan and prepare
There’s a common aphorism that states: “When you fail to plan, you plan to fail,” and this is especially true when it comes to board meetings. With a limited amount of time to gather, it’s all too easy for meetings to get off track. Loose agendas, equipment failures or any other issue can stall productivity. To combat this, do the following a week prior to the meeting:
- Send out the agenda, along with all documentation that should be reviewed beforehand.
- Verify that you have a meeting room with sufficient space and presentation equipment and/or an online meeting option.
- Test all the equipment, presentations and, if necessary, board member hardware and software configuration.
- Create a backup plan, whether it involves printing paper copies of presentations or setting up a phone number to call into if an online meeting fails.
If you’re hosting an in-person meeting, have a few copies of any paperwork presentations in folders that can be passed out if equipment goes down. If the meeting is online, USB drives can be sent out in advance to ensure a weak internet connection doesn’t keep someone from having all the facts.
#4: Encourage generative thinking
While meetings are often about answering questions or making decisions, one of the best things you can do for your organization is to have your board take some time to do generative thinking. By thinking about the big picture, what’s coming, new ideas that can be applied to your organization, and other broad discussion points, your board can help the organization answer the question, “What problem are we solving?” in new and exciting ways.
Make idea-producing more productive with nonprofit giveaways. Hand everyone a pen and notebook, set a timer, offer a topic and ask everyone to brainstorm for five minutes. Then open the floor to discussion and encourage people to write down more ideas. At the end the best ideas can be added to the meeting minutes.
#5: End with next steps
As the meeting draws to a close, make sure the discussion and note-taking concludes with exacting next steps, like:
- Let persons A, B and C know our decision on this matter.
- Document which items have been tabled for the next meeting.
- Appoint persons X, Y and Z to gather data on a potential concern that may need to be addressed.
By drilling down to this level of detail, the meeting can end with a sense of accomplishment—and the next one can be just as productive.
Better meetings, better organizations
When your nonprofit board meeting is correctly planned and executed, your board is able to answer more questions, address more issues and help you look to the future. And that future will look just a little bit brighter.