Your board members lead busy lives. Naturally, at times you need to accommodate their work, travel, and personal schedules. One increasingly popular way to do that is through video or call-in attendance. There are pros and cons to remote board meeting attendance. Read on for some important things to consider.
Should board members be able to call in to a board meeting instead of attending in person? This was recently the subject of a spirited discussion by a group of CEOs at a lunch meeting. It can be a controversial issue for a board to tackle. The executives agreed that it should be viewed as the exception rather than a common practice. It should not be viewed as a regular alternative to in-person attendance. Let’s look at the benefits and risks.
Board members with hectic travel schedules can still participate if they can call in. It can save the organization from not being able to vote on an important issue due to a lack of quorum. It may allow a key member who is working on a time-sensitive project who cannot be present to speak to the entire board. If members cannot attend in person, it can assure that they hear the information being discussed first-hand.
The knowledge that board members could call in can negatively impact in-person attendance. Some organizations who allow call-ins report that in-person attendance has gone down. It is also true that the dynamic of the group will be affected. Generally, it is hard for board members to be actively engaged in the meeting when they are participating by phone. Often, the members on the phone are just listening and voting on motions. It can affect the overall engagement of the board. One strategy to minimize disengagement is to encourage remote attendees to do a video conference. The simple fact is that humans relate to faces, and being able to see each other improves connection.
There is no definite answer to this question. If your nonprofit struggles with having a quorum, this may be a way to increase overall participation. It might also decrease in-person attendance. It should not be intended to replace in-person attendance. Try it for a couple of meetings before making a definite decision.
Allowing voting by phone or video conferencing participation may require a change in the nonprofit’s bylaws. If you haven’t changed your bylaws, members on the phone can participate, but not vote on motions.
If you choose to make this change, the board may want to put a limit on the number of times that a board member can participate by call in. Have a frank discussion with the board that makes it clear that this is not an alternative to being present at meetings on a regular basis.
Remote board meeting attendance can be a powerful tool for working with your board members’ schedules and running a modern organization. Clear expectations, honest feedback, and responsible use are crucial for making this concept work. In the end, your board will be grateful for your thoughtful consideration of all meeting possibilities.
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