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Mission Critical: Board Meeting Attendance

Is your board meeting attendance faltering? Do you ever ask yourself why you think board members are not attending? This is a “mission critical” problem in the literal sense.

Poor attendance means a lack of continuity and knowledge gaps in attendance. Over time, poor attendance leads to an inability to effectively discuss topics and often a lack of quorum to decide and vote on important issues.

It could be that your board members are stretched too thin and have a general lack of time. However, it might be a deeper issue. It could be something specific to the way your board meetings are run. Perhaps the meetings are not using time efficiently, or board members don’t feel useful at these meetings. If you have this problem, it needs to be fixed pronto! Here’s how.

Set The Board Meeting Attendance Standard

The first thing you must do is set the expectation for board attendance. Get input from the board, then set a standard that everyone can agree to. This is an important first step before you delve into improving your meeting management. If a board member isn’t complying with an attendance rule, follow up with a personal conversation. Incentivize members by earning points toward a year-end prize or having a leaderboard of who has the best attendance.

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Get Feedback

Use a meeting effectiveness assessment to solicit feedback from your board and other participants in the meetings. This will help you determine the reasons for inconsistent attendance. There are many assessments to choose from, but all are simple questionnaires that will help you assess effectiveness and implement improvements. Establish a set schedule and frequency for board meetings, then stick to it. Establish guidelines for how many meetings can be missed. Don’t be too stringent, but don’t be too lax. The important point is to keep everyone informed and in sync so you can charge ahead with your nonprofit mission.

Get A Checklist

Get an effective meetings checklist. There are many out there that can show you how to plan and hold effective meetings. The checklist will help you hone your meeting-running skills and help you make your meetings more productive. Be sure your meeting agenda covers all the items on your checklist. Try a tool like Boardable’s Agenda Maker to create a template you can use every meeting. That way, you never forget the necessary points of the meeting.

Establish Ground Rules

If your meetings are a bit unruly, be sure to establish behavior and decorum guidelines. If your meetings are constantly interrupted by certain individuals who talk on cell phones or interrupt others, call them out on it and have them adhere to the standard. You can do a search for “Robert’s Rules of Order” to find resources for handling any possible meeting occurrence.

RELATED: Handling Conflict Between Nonprofit Directors and Board Members

Consistency, But Not Too Much

Board meetings certainly need to be run in a fairly consistent manner, but make sure the approach is not stale and boring. Otherwise, board members will lose interest. Change the meeting venue, or focus on an individual board member’s main topic each meeting. Change it up to keep it fresh. Some executive directors set aside the first 15 minutes as networking time so board members can communicate with each other.

RELATED: 10 Ways to Energize Board Meetings

Planning Is Key

Your board members will be able to tell how much preparation you put into the meeting, so make every gathering count. Plan the meeting well ahead of time, and notify board members well in advance. Keep meeting information up-to-date on websites and other forms of communication.

Using these tips will put you well on the path of improving board meeting attendance. Be firm, establish how you’d like to run the meetings, and communicate the meeting purpose and value. If problems develop, own the problem and address the problem. You’ll get to the root of the issues, and your board meetings will be better for it.


Interested in how to make your board of directors more productive through the effective use of technology? Boardable is a software platform that centralizes all communication between you and your board. Find the best meeting times, securely store all of your documents, archive discussion threads and more—all in one place. Click below to schedule a demo with a member of our Boardable team.

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