Non profit leaders are responsible to see that the organization achieves its mission. With any number of challenges and opportunities in front of them, governing boards must use their time wisely. Board meetings are often the only time the members come together as a whole to exercise their governing responsibilities.
Meeting time is a precious commodity that needs to be used wisely. A frequent complaint of board members is that meetings seem to drag on forever. One of the most important duties of the board chair is to keep the meeting moving along. Keeping meeting length manageable takes planning and meeting discipline.
The following four tips will help keep the meeting moving and more productive.
1. Distribute materials ahead of time
One of the factors that adds to meeting length is not having the meeting materials circulated before hand. If documents such as the agenda, minutes of the previous meeting, financial and committee reports are sent to board members ahead of the meeting they can review them and make note of any comments or questions before they get to the board table.
Having the meeting documents before hand allows members to communicate with the chairman or each other before the meeting and have their questions answered in advance. This can save time at the meeting and results in better prepared members focused on conducting the organizations business without spending meeting time revieimg minutes and reports.
2. Agree on a pre-determined meeting length
Discussion is the cornerstone of the board meeting. Agenda items deserve a full and vigorous review and debate. It is often difficult for the chairman to predict which topics will be dispensed with quickly and which will require an extended discussion period.
In order for board members to have certainty of meeting length many boards will agree upon a set end time. Once the meeting reaches that end time it takes the approval of a motion to extend the meeting. Setting a pre-determined end time helps everyone to keep discussion on topic.
When it becomes evident that there is more agenda than meeting time the chairman can prioritize agenda items to insure that the most important topics are discussed.
3. Use a consent agenda
Routine agenda items that require no discussion or would be passed without objection can be grouped together and approved by a consent agenda. A consent agenda is a bundle of items that is voted on, without discussion, as a package.
It differentiates between routine matters not needing explanation and more complex issues needing examination. It includes such items as the minutes of the previous meeting, the chairman’s report, committee reports and informational materials.
With a consent agenda items that could take 30 minutes or longer to discuss can be done in 5 minutes. It promotes good time management and allows the board to focus on issues of real importance.
More information on the consent agenda can be found HERE.
4. Keep discussions focused
Another huge time waster is discussion that veers off topic. When a discussion strays from business to unrelated matters, war stories, and even gossip, not only is the members’ time wasted but discussion that is central to resolving the issue before the board can be missed.
Another way time is wasted is when one member monopolizes the discussion. The board meeting isn’t the place for a monologue. Every member has the right to be heard on an issue but no individual member has the right to dominate the discussion.
The board chairpersons play a key role in keeping discussion focused. He or she must be sensitive to the need for thorough discussion and guide that discussion appropriately. When the discussion becomes irrelevant or when a member hijacks the discussion the chairperson must bring it back to topic. This can be done with a firm but gentle hand on the gavel.
Focused discussion allows matters to get full discussion without wasting time on unnecessary issues.
Time is our most precious commodity. Using board meeting time in an efficient manner is important to the overall effectiveness of the board in governing the organization. Meeting management takes preparation these four tips will help you to prepare to manage your meeting time.
For more information in making your meetings more productive read the following pamphlet
Meetings That Work.
Today’s Question: Are your board meetings filled with time wasters?