How To Hold Effective Nonprofit Board Meetings

Many nonprofits, start-ups, and community organizations find them restrictive, cumbersome, or difficult to enforce. If this is the case for your organization, take what works for you, and leave what doesn’t. The decision to come to a consensus instead of using majority vote is a great example of this. Some organizations have also adopted a practice of coming to a consensus, discussing motions until a decision is reached that every meeting attendee finds acceptable.

board meetings for dummies

It’s a rare meeting where the board of directors has enough time to accomplish everything that it needs to. Having an established and focused board meeting agenda helps the board maximize accuracy, efficiency, and productivity. Board meeting agendas include items for managing routine business and for tackling special projects. In order for attendees to conduct business on behalf of a larger group, a quorum is required. A quorum is the minimum attendance necessary to make motions and vote without under-representing the group’s membership. For example, if only three people of a ten-person board are present, they can’t reasonably vote on issues that affect the entire organization. This typically occurs at the beginning of the board meeting, where the Secretary will read the minutes aloud to the board.

If your meetings are generally an hour or two in length, try to plan the agenda accordingly. If there are a number of pressing matters that must be discussed, communicate to the board early on that this meeting will take longer than other meetings so that they can plan to stay longer. Every corporation, whether for-profit or not-for-profit, has a set of bylaws. The bylaws set forth how the corporation will run, how voting is conducted, who the officers are, along with other important information. Every board member should have a copy of the bylaws and bring it to each board meeting for reference. With the right technology, board meetings can be engaging and informative and can dramatically improve the strategic outlook of your company.

Working collaboratively with the CEO or Executive Director, the Board Chair molds the board’s culture and work. An effective Board Chair influences the direction and priorities of the board. It’s an active role that engages the board members, building upon each member’s individual strengths. Members always have a right to bring forward ideas or business for the entire membership to discuss, which they do by making a main motion. Ideas are not discussed first and then a motion made, but rather a motion is made and then discussed. The principle of taking up one item of business at a time especially applies to main motions. If there are no special orders, then after the committee reports, the next business in order is the unfinished business and general orders.

Following Roberts Rules Or Parliamentary Procedure For Proper Board Meeting Procedures

Remember, boards add true value during the meetings where important decisions are made. Nonprofit boards are increasingly using tools to improve meeting productivity, such as consent agendas, dashboard reports, and board portals to enhance meeting productivity. This part of meeting conduct requires a lot of discipline and a commitment to the agenda items. Get agreement from the group to be able to put items that are not relevant to the discussion in the “parking lot” and discuss them later in the board meeting. Be sure to fulfill your promise by revisiting the parking lot and assessing what should be researched further, added to the next agenda, or delegated as a task.

The board chair has the responsibility to clearly state a motion before the board. The chair asks for “yea” or “yes” votes and then “nay” or “no” votes. Board members usually give a voice vote, but votes can also be signified with a show of hands, standing to rise, or by ballot. The board chair may elect to retake a vote when the results aren’t clear. The president then repeats the motion and asks for discussion.

How do I calm my nerves before a meeting?

Take two or three quiet minutes with your eyes closed, seated in a chair, and focus on your breath. Inhale as fully yet softly as you can, and then take twice as long to exhale. The lengthened-out exhale is key in calming your heart rate, thus calming your nerves.

Things can change between the time the agenda is mailed to the membership and the time that the meeting takes place. Agendas should have flexibility to provide for unseen things that may come up in a meeting. Some organizations want to adopt an agenda believing that they can add no further items as the meeting progresses, which is not true. If an agenda is adopted, changing it takes a two-thirds vote.

Properly run board meetings require two things — 1) knowing the procedures and following them and 2) appointing people who know the responsibilities they hold within their positions. Proper board meeting procedures require giving board directors and others the proper notice according to the bylaws and any applicable regulations. Boards must be sure to hold legal votes, which requires them to abide by the rules for having a quorum. Board directors also need to be familiar with parliamentary procedures as a check and balance to the board chair. Best practices require boards to spend the bulk of their meeting time doing strategic planning.

Board directors can log into the portal and get the most updated board meeting information at any time and from any location. A board meeting is a meeting of a company’s board of directors, held usually at certain times of the year to discuss company-wide policies or issues. The board of directors determines the overall business strategy of the company, and the directors are either elected by shareholders or by members of the organization. These types of meetings are important because they are a chance for the people in charge to define and discuss the trajectory of the company. Plan your board meetings and with our intuitive Agenda Builder.

How To Run A Board Meeting Thats Engaging And Productive

With so many elements to balance, running board meetings can quickly become overwhelming, and time can slip away before you know it. Getting sidetracked by new discussion topics that pop up during the board meeting will eat up time and distract board members from the most important agenda items. Mitigate this by including a parking lot at the end of your agenda, where you push random topics that are worthy of discussion but not a top priority. The consent agenda allows members to vote on a group of items en bloc without discussion. This is a good way to dispose of business that is noncontroversial. Approving the minutes, paying the bills, and approving customary donations are examples of noncontroversial business. For an organization to use a consent agenda, it needs to adopt a special rule of order.

board meetings for dummies

A change of scenery can stimulate new ideas and discussion, effortlessly energizing board meetings. Changing the time of day from an evening meeting to a breakfast gathering can inject energy into conversations, too.

Vast majority of content in this topic applies to for-profits and nonprofits. ‍‍There being no further business to come before the meeting, the meeting was adjourned at .

Protocol For A Board Of Directors Meeting

At Lifesize, we want you to focus on the meeting content, not the tools you’re meeting with. That’s why we offer the ability to completely streamline your board meetings so that they are truly about the meeting, the people involved, the plans being made and nothing else.

  • For some boards, the initial board meeting is the first official opportunity to meet fellow board members; for other boards, members may already be in communication with each other.
  • When a legal action has been brought against the organization, courts use minutes for evidence.
  • Regular board meetings are a critical component of building and sustaining a successful business.
  • These agenda items require board approval, but because they’re not controversial, they don’t require discussion.
  • The chair, executive director or CEO, and any other board leadership should meet with each member periodically to allow the kinds of conversations that are difficult in a group setting.
  • Additionally, the Secretary should print copies to distribute at the meeting, and to file in the corporate book.

Then it falls to the board members to discuss these ideas, their viability and any changes they’d make. The goal should always be to promote growth, whether you’re talking about sales, product portfolio additions or expansion into new markets. Look at sales figures, marketing traffic and market share. This is your chance to talk about milestones and achievements, as well as areas where the company has opportunities to improve or grow. Look at missed targets, increasing expenses and incidents with customers and clients. Use this opportunity to allow the board to discuss the company’s performance and work toward finding solutions for misses and incentives for wins.

Want More Productive Meetings?

In reality, the Board Chair responsibilities are far greater than that. The Board Chair maintains focus on what is best for the company or organization. He/she facilitates good board leadership and governance and sets the tone for the meetings.

Programs may include a special speaker or entertainment, and they usually follow new business. End the meeting, or adjourn, after establishing final decisions and future topics for discussion.

This duty entails giving proper notice, setting up the location, and making sure the boardroom has all the necessary tools and equipment. Board meeting minutes are a very important part of proper board meeting procedures. Meeting minutes reflect the board’s actions and decisions. Meeting minutes can be introduced as evidence in a court of law and are legally binding. Minutes serve as a guide for board directors as they make decisions for the company’s future.

Talk about whether the company’s performance metrics are moving in the right direction and if the targets have been achieved. The board chair is in a key position to make sure that all board members participate, all aspects of an issue are covered, and a general understanding of the outcomes is respected. If they familiarize themselves with agenda items and support materials ahead of time, they will spend less time on each item of the meeting. It organizes standard and non-controversial board action items away from the rest of the agenda so that they can be approved as a group. Finding new ways to energize board meetings isn’t easy, but with the following tips, you can keep everyone engaged and committed to furthering your work. Just like your leadership, inspire your board members to get to know one another by interacting outside of the boardroom.

board meetings for dummies

We think Robert’s Rules could benefit from a little modern interpretation, so here it is! We’ll also include a cheat sheet at the end, and a little information about when not to use Robert’s Rules of Order in your meetings. Board chairs may ask for a revote if the results of the voting aren’t clear. WikiHow marks an article as reader-approved once it receives enough positive feedback. In this case, 95% of readers who voted found the article helpful, earning it our reader-approved status. In case you’ve been living under a rock for the past six months, it’s clear that remote work and distributed teams are here to stay, even after the pandemic recedes.

Most organizations incorporate some optional agenda items into their meetings. Examples of optional items are opening ceremonies, roll call, programs, announcements, and “for the good of the order.” The most important resource for filling in agenda details is the minutes of the previous meeting.


Board retreats are special meetings organized around an issue too significant to be handled properly within a normal meeting agenda. Most boards can benefit from an annual retreat simply to strengthen relationships and focus on future challenges. BoardSource has answered governance questions posed by nonprofit leaders for over 30 years.

Robert’s Rules are quite formal, and include calling other board members and officers by titles such as ‘Madam’ and ‘Chairman’. In either case, it is best if the board decides early on how formally or informally it wishes to conduct meetings.

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