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10 Ways to Energize Board Meetings

And Make Board Members Look Forward to Every Meeting

It’s easy for boards to become “bored.” In many years as a board member, board president, nonprofit staff person and consultant, I’ve discovered that there are lots of ways to keep your board meetings interesting so that board members want to attend and know that their time and talent is valued. Here are my “Top Ten Ways to Energize Board Meetings.”

energize board meetings

Steps to Energize Board Meetings:

  1. Start and end on time. Seems simple and it is! Make use of a “parking lot” to list good ideas that come up, but are not relevant to the agenda item being discussed. Stay on track and move the agenda along. Meetings that start and end on time are meetings that people will continue to attend.
  2. Meet in a different place. You can meet at a program site or at a restaurant for breakfast or lunch. A change of scene can stimulate new ideas and good discussion, and energize board meetings effortlessly.
  3. Use a consent agenda for the routine business of the meeting. A consent agenda organizes standard and non-controversial board action items apart from the rest of the agenda so that they can be approved as a group. This includes agenda items that require board approval, but because they are not controversial, do not require discussion by the board. This may include the minutes of the last meeting, other standard committee reports, the CEO’s report or informational items. One motion, a second, and a vote approves these items quickly.
  4. Turn the agenda upside-down. Discuss the most important things FIRST. Get feedback and discussion when everyone is fresh and ready to get down to business. (RELATED: Nonprofit Board Meeting Agenda Best Practices)
  5. Make sure that every board member says at least ONE thing at the meeting. Research shows that if you can get everyone at a meeting to talk just a little at the beginning, it is more likely that they will speak up at other times in the meeting. Ask an interesting question for every board member to answer. An example: How were you an ambassador for our nonprofit this month?
  6. Present a heart-warming success story to remind them of the mission. When a client succeeds, when the reviews for the last show were stellar, when a staff member went above and beyond, or when the organization has achieved a goal are all reasons to celebrate with the board. Nothing can energize board meetings like success!
  7. Have an elevator speech contest. Give prizes! Invite board members to prepare to talk for 1-2 minutes as if they’ve been introduced to someone and the person has said, “What does this nonprofit do?” Make it completely voluntary. You may only have 3 or 4 who participate. Have someone from outside your nonprofit serve as the judge. Everyone will gain some great ideas on how to “introduce” your nonprofit to others. (RELATED: How To Breathe New Life into Stale Board Meetings)
  8. Evaluate your meetings at least once a year. At a couple of meetings every year, give every board two sticky notes. At the end of the meeting, ask board members give you a “+” (what goes well) and a “-“ (what needs improvement) about board meetings. On their way out at the end of the meeting, they put the comments on poster paper at the door. You’ll get great feedback on meetings. (RELATED: Nonprofit Board Self-Assessments Don’t Have to Be Scary!)
  9. Enforce an attendance policy so that board members who are often “no shows” are removed from the board. It’s not fair to board members who come to meetings to have all the work fall only on them. Sometimes people need permission to admit that they can no longer fill the role of board member.
  10. Have meetings only when there is work to do. This is the simplest way to energize board meetings. If there is no reason to have a meeting, don’t have one! If you find that happens often, there needs to be a serious discussion of governance and the work that the board should be doing.

Finding new ways to energize board meetings isn’t easy, but with these tips you can keep everyone engaged, committed, and furthering the mission. Keep up the good work!

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