I have a board meeting tomorrow at work. My colleagues and I started preparing for it two months in advance. Our fiscal year ends September 30th so this board meeting includes budget and annual plan approvals. It is a lot of work and I wonder if the hours that are dedicated to this process is necessary (there is also an opportunity cost involved). Or, perhaps, there is a better way? With all the talk about disruptive philanthropy and practices, I wonder if there is a space for disrupting the typical formats of board meetings.
As I reflect on my board experiences (as a board member and as a staff), I realize that there are some similarities.
1. Every board meeting comes with a binder that is sent to you a week or so before the actual board meeting (that's a lot of trees and who really needs another binder - especially those three-ring binders!).
2. There are way too many "report-backs" at the meetings and it just encourages you not to read the materials. Which means you don't prepare for questions or feedback.
3. Most meetings don't encourage conversation or dialogue. They are carefully orchestrated by the CEO or Chair so that the outcomes are what they intend them to be.
4. Only a few participate in the board meeting. The more vocal ones are heard and the opinions of larger donors carry more weight.
There are many how-to and best practices of board leadership and management books and articles. But instead of sharing all these theories with you, I wanted to find out what the practicing nonprofit CEO/Executive Directors would prefer. I quickly gave a call to several of my nonprofit CEO/Eeecutive Director friends to see what they wish to see in their board meetings. Below are some of their comments:
1. Board meetings should be used to celebrate what the staff has done under the vision of the board.
2. Board meetings should be over the phone, once a quarter, where the CEO shares the three goals they have met and review what the three new goals are for next quarter.
3. Skip the reports and create moments for innovation that allows for the input of all board members.
4. Create space for board members to bond with each other and with staff.
5. Balance mission with "ROI (return on investment) fund-raising" talk.
What are some of your ideas? How can board meetings be fun and how can we use them to move the organization forward?
Photo courtesy of Guoman Hotels, Creative Commons, flickr