Decrease the stress of board meeting prep.
How often have you tried to schedule a meeting or even a coffee with a fellow nonprofit manager only to be told that they have a board meeting this week and can’t possibly breathe until it’s over?
How often have YOU responded in this way? Do you stress out for at least a week before a board meeting, cancel or refuse to schedule other meetings and basically shut down your work?
We can help you change that! Here is a list of nine practices that will decrease your stress and the time you spend preparing for each board meeting and setting each meeting up for success.
- Make an annual schedule – do not schedule board and committee meetings one at a time. Propose a schedule that goes for at least a full year and then after the board agrees to this, send out electronic meeting invites for EVERY meeting for the year (board and committee meetings). Do this in November or December of each year. Then stick to the schedule.
- Do not cancel or reschedule meetings – have the meeting. If you do not have a quorum, note that in the minutes and keep going. You can either vote on items at the next meeting or, if your bylaws allow it, you can have an electronic vote. This will develop habits for you, the board and the entire organization.
- Create a standard agenda that includes financial reports, committee reports, an ED update, and one or two items that can engage your board. If you have a strategic plan, use that to set the agenda. Always leave space for “new business” or “general discussion” to give board members the opportunity to engage with each other and the organization as a whole.
- Put a reminder in your calendar and schedule an hour of time at least two weeks in advance (depending on your meeting schedule) where you review previous board meetings and can thoughtfully begin to pull together the items needed for this one. Ideally this is a meeting or phone call between the ED and the BC and then you communicate with any staff or committee chairs that need to provide you with materials, reports, etc.
- All material should go out to the board a minimum of one week in advance of the meeting. If you have staff or committee chairs providing reports, etc. they should have their items to you at least 10 days prior to the meeting – I try for 2 weeks, but that doesn’t always happen, particularly if the meetings are monthly. It helps if these deadlines are on their calendars as recurring tasks or events.
- Ensure that minutes are taken for committee meetings as well – or include detailed committee reports in the board meeting minutes. This will be helpful in the future – a “paper trail” of information.
- The next day: Talk to board members who don’t show up. Don’t just ignore it. Send an email or make a phone call the next day “we missed you last night. Can I get your input on this important thing that happened?”
- Also the next day: write the minutes up directly after the board meeting so you get all the details correct. If someone else is tasked with this, ask them to complete the minutes within one day of the meeting. Send them to the secretary or board as DRAFT as soon as you complete them – this gives them the ability to review the notes with the meeting fresh in their minds.
- Put a reminder in your calendar for the day after the board meeting to reflect on the meeting, review the to-do list that you generated during the meeting, and knock items off the list if possible. Give yourself this time and take it. I usually block off a full hour.
Take this list to your board chair or executive committee and have a discussion about which practices will help you and your board reduce the stress around board meeting prep.
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