Board Meeting Agendas: How to Build Them Effectively
Contributed by board governance coach Kim Donahue

We’ve all been there: A meeting that should have lasted an hour inched toward the 90-minute mark and then dragged past two hours. Even worse, the meeting group didn’t accomplish anything significant, and people left without clarity on key decisions or forward-looking action items.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. For organizations with limited resources and volunteer board members, effective meetings are critical. And every good meeting starts with a good meeting agenda. Below, board governance coach and facilitator Kim Donahue shares her thoughts on what makes a good board meeting agenda and how your organization can increase effectiveness through a bit of simple planning.

Here’s what Kim has to say about how to build effective board meeting agendas…

What do your board meeting agendas say about your organization?

Time to get real. Do your agendas say that the board gets together once a month to move the organization forward with engaging discussions, or do they say that you do the same things over and over? It may be time to assess your current state and identify areas where your meeting agendas could use a fresh approach.

Some things to consider during your assessment of the current state of your board meetings: Do your board members see the agenda before the meeting? Do you ever do something different at a meeting? When was the last time you asked your board members a great question for discussion at a meeting? More on these concepts below…

How can an agenda contribute to a great meeting?

Sharing the agenda ahead of a meeting lets board members know how to prepare to contribute at the meeting. Effective agendas give board members some detail about the discussion items, give them a provocative question or two to consider, and/or include some part of the strategic plan to review for progress. Attaching committee reports and minutes will shorten the time you have to spend on the routine things. You may even want to use the infamous consent agenda.

What is a “consent agenda”?

A consent agenda is a practice that allows a board to group standard and non-controversial board action items into one action item. These items are organized apart from the rest of the agenda and are 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, or informational items. It’s infamous because everyone must really review those items before the board meeting. You don’t want the board to approve things they haven’t reviewed, so use a consent agenda carefully.

How can you organize board meeting agendas for maximum effectiveness?

Here are three suggestions:

  1. Time-based – The agenda has a specific amount of time allotted for each agenda item, and the board makes sure that everyone is clear about moving on. Wrapping up discussion is easier if everyone knows that it’s time to address the next item.
  2. Priority – This is usually coupled with a consent agenda. You turn the meeting upside down and discuss the most important business first. This format ensures that all members are there for important discussions and decision-making.
  3. Outcome – Every agenda item indicates whether it is for discussion or a decision needs to be made. Your board members know before the meeting which items are action items.

Remember: It is important to change things up. Give your board meetings new life by valuing everyone’s time with an agenda that makes people want to come to the meeting!

If you aren’t sure where to start or need some guidance building your agenda, you can use Boardable’s Meeting Center to automate meeting scheduling, build meeting agendas (even use the built-in agenda templates to make it easier), and keep track of meeting attendance and correspondence with ease.

Need Help Building Board Meeting Agendas?

Check out this recent webinar where Boardable’s Director of Operations, Ashly Myers, interviews me, Kim Donahue, on best practices for building effective board meeting agendas and gives us a demo of how Boardable’s new Agenda Builder tool works.

Watch this 30-minute webinar in order to:

  • Find out how your board’s current agenda template stacks up against best practices.
  • Learn how to build a better agenda to improve board effectiveness.
  • Put your new knowledge to work immediately with downloadable agenda templates and Boardable’s in-product Agenda Builder.

Meeting Agenda Templates Anyone Can Use

Not a Boardable user? Check out these Agenda Templates you can use as a starting point to build out your next board meeting agenda:


Find out how Boardable can make your nonprofit board more efficient and productive: Click below to schedule a demo with a member of the team.

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