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What to Do When Board Meeting Attendance Falters

What if you don’t have a quorum?  It’s a frustrating experience, isn’t it? Faithful, responsible board members come to the meeting and you can’t take any action because some members don’t attend. Does it happen occasionally? Often? What can you do to figure out why?

Ask Yourself These Questions About Board Member Attendance

What happens or doesn’t happen at your meetings?

I once had a board member tell me that he went to a two-hour board meeting and wasn’t asked to make a decision, give input on any issue or review any part of the strategic plan. He said he wasn’t going to waste his time with a meeting when they could have sent him all the updates by email.

what to do when your board meeting attendance falters

Be sure you are giving your board members a reason to prioritize attendance. Talking “at” a group of professionals for an hour is not something you want to happen at your board meeting! After all, why would they show up, if the outcome would be about the same if they weren’t there at all? If you have a meeting that necessitates transmission of a lot of information, stop now and then and at least ask board members for their reactions to the information.

RELATED: Nonprofit Board Vocabulary – Defining the Board Member Experience

What can you do to emphasize board meeting attendance?

When you have a meeting is there real work for the board to do? You may not have crucial decisions to make at every meeting. Some things you can do to provide a reason to attend your meeting:

  • Review one of the goals in the strategic plan. Have board members give input on their part in progress.
  • Ask a thought-provoking question. Think of one that has board members thinking about the future.
  • Have a board education topic on the agenda. This could include anything from a refresher on networking best practices to training specific to your mission.
  • Have an Elevator Speech contest! Some board members volunteer to write elevator speeches about the work of the nonprofit and they present their elevator speeches at a board meeting. Have someone from outside the organization serve as the judge. Then, give everyone copies of the winning elevator speech.

Do you really need to have a meeting?

Is there really a need for the meeting? It’s OK to cancel a board meeting once in a while if the only reason for the meeting is that it is on the calendar. If that happens too often, there is a need for a discussion about why that happens. It could be that your nonprofit could function well with quarterly board meetings and supplemental committee or task force meetings.

RELATED: Does Your Board Micromanage the Nonprofit?

What do you do about habitual poor board meeting attendance?

When some members miss more meetings than they attend, it may be time to “bless and release” them. That’s what I call giving board members “permission” to leave the board amicably. Perhaps job or family obligations have changed. This is where having a board expectation agreement can be valuable. If there is an expectation of how many meetings board members must attend to be active, it is much easier to explain that they must step off the board. Otherwise it’s a hard conversation for the board chair to have.

RELATED: Protect Your Nonprofit from 5 Dysfunctions of a Team

Board meeting attendance is a symptom of board health.

Explaining expectations of board member attendance in new member orientation and in the yearly board expectation agreement makes it clear to board members that their attendance is expected. Making sure that they have work to do at meetings is also part of the relationship that board members have with the organization.

Do you have some tips and techniques for improving attendance at your meetings? We’d love to hear about them. You can email Coach Kim with your tips. We’ll include them in an upcoming blog.

RELATED: How and When to Hire a Nonprofit Consultant

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