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Nonprofit Board Meetings Shouldn’t Make You Cry

Do you look forward to your board of directors’ meetings or do your eyes tear up just thinking about it? Just like Tom Hanks said in A League of Their Own, “there’s no crying in baseball,” there’s no need to stress over your board meetings.

Here are some tips to make your board meetings productive and meaningful. Begin by managing expectations of board members and staff. The staff work for the Executive Director, not the board. The Executive Director reports to the board. The board members are volunteers, whose role is to provide fiduciary and governance oversight. They are also responsible for the retaining and dismissing the Executive Director.

Job descriptions for board members and committees are very important. People want to know what they need to do and what their responsibilities are. Using nonprofit sector best practices provide parameters for board and committee meetings. Whether it’s during a board retreat or an item on the agenda, board governance training helps board members and staff leadership stay on track.

Establish board meeting dates, times, and locations for the fiscal year. This gives the meeting a better chance of having a quorum. Working with the Board Chair, create a consent agenda and a standard meeting agenda. A good board meeting is interactive with a healthy exchange of ideas.

An agenda keeps the discussion moving forward. Board committees is where the work needs to be done. It is the responsibility of the Board chair to make sure that committee chairs conduct their meetings and have reports ready for each board meeting. The job description for the Board Secretary should include a procedure to prepare and submit board meeting minutes in a timely manner.

A board portal on your website or a Dropbox is a time saver. Having a consistent deadline for all materials to be uploaded also makes it easier for everyone to be prepared. It is the board members’ responsibility to print any documents they may want for the board meeting.

Overall, being organized and having an established process greatly reduces the stress and potential tears over a board meeting. Neither board members nor staff should throw in last minutes surprises unless it’s an emergency.

Make sure the staff have proper support, especially during our current pandemic. The amount of time put into board meeting preparation shouldn’t take a majority of the executive director’s time.

Lastly, a mentor or coach can help the nonprofit leader manage her or his work-related stress when she or he feels overwhelmed. We’re all juggling so much more these days so grace and understanding goes a long way.


Michelle Crim, CFRE

Dynamic Development Strategies can help. We offer coaching and fundraising services for our nonprofit clients. We specialize in startup and smaller nonprofits because we understand your challenges. Please contact us for more information.

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