Effective Board Meetings working
Incorporated organizations are required by law to have members' meetings. This often translates into an Annual General Meeting (AGM) of the full membership and regular, more frequent meetings of the board of directors. The number of meetings a board holds in a year is outlined in its bylaws, but it's often monthly or bi-monthly although it's not unusual to only meet quarterly. Board members attend and vote at board meetings.
Other members of the organization or special guests may be welcome to attend board meetings but usually as invited visitors with no vote. The Executive Director attends board meetings as well as an ex-officio (or non-voting) member of the board.
At one time, Robert's Rules of Order (www.robertsrules.org) was used by many non-profit organizations as a guide to conduct meetings. The book, however, was based in parliamentary language and was often confusing and too formal for volunteer directors. Many resources have since been adopted by boards to help them run meetings that are effective, matched with their organization's governance structure, and easy to read and understand. One excellent example is Call to Order: Meeting Rules and Procedures for Non-Profit Organizations by Herb Perry (www.bigbaypublishing.ca).
Just because meetings are a necessary and legal part of board governance doesn't mean that they can't also be an enjoyable and productive part of the governance cycle. For board meetings to be effective they need to:
- Have a purpose
- Provide enough notice and appropriate materials for members to be prepared
- Be chaired effectively
- Follow proper meeting procedures and respect the time of board members
- Have clear supporting documents such as an agenda, minutes and other reports
- Ensure all participants have a voice and are respected
- Include some social interaction and networking time
- Accomplish results and/or have action items
- Be documented with minutes
Carter McNamara, author and trainer experienced in non-profit management, says the most frequent reasons for poor board meetings are insufficient time to review materials before the meeting, insufficient member participation, and poor time management during the meeting.
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