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Board Meetings

If your board meetings are productive, your board is productive. 

Quick baseline tips for conducting high-functioning board meetings include:

  • Send board packets ahead of time that include minutes from the last board meeting, financial reports, committee updates and an agenda. Constantly revisiting the past slows down the meeting and drains the energy from the room.
  • Think about your meeting goals and develop the agenda in a manner that indicates whether the items require discussion and action or are updates only. Adopting the practice of using a consent agenda helps keep the time the board spends together focused on the future.  
  • Make sure you have beverages and snacks and allow board members some time to mingle.
  • Arrange to meet in different locations to break up the monotony and expose your board members to different locales in the community. If you are looking to attract potential board members from diverse populations, consider holding the board meetings within those communities: museums, businesses, churches, etc. 

An effective tool used by many boards is conducting a short meeting evaluation at the end of each board meeting. Cathy Trower, in Govern More, Manage Less, suggests it can be as simple as five questions on an index card: 

  • The issues covered today were (rate from trivial to essential)
  • Materials provided were (rate from worthless to indispensible)
  • Today's discussions concerned primarily (rate from operations to strategy)
  • What might we have done differently to improve the meeting?
  • What was the most valuable contribution made to the program's welfare today?

The board members' responses should be compiled and shared with the whole board with a brief discussion about any changes that could be made based on the responses.

How Often Should a Board Meet?  

The answer depends on the amount of work that needs to be done. If a program is young or facing a challenging time, there will need to be more frequent meetings. As a program matures, the board members can discuss if they need to meet as often.

Don't meet just to meet. Time is valuable to board members and staff, so the meeting should occur at a frequency that benefits the program. The program by-laws should contain information on the frequency of board meetings.

Is It OK to Meet Using Teleconferencing for Members Who Are Unable to be Physically Present at a Meeting? 

You will need to check with your state laws to see if they recognize this type of attendance. If so, there are many resources that address how best to engage a group when some are attending electronically. 

Remind yourselves at the onset of each meeting why you are all together. Programs often refer to this as a "mission moment" where they take a few minutes to either ask a current CASA volunteer to speak to the group or invite a staff person to relate a poignant story of CASA advocacy.  Reminding the group the reason they agreed to serve on this board and their dedication to the CASA mission sets the tone for a meeting that supports the organization.

Should Staff Attend the Board Meetings? 

This practice varies between programs and often depends on what business is on the current agenda. It is important for staff and board to be familiar with each other, so providing opportunities for staff members to occasionally report on certain activities is a good way to have this contact. Routinely asking staff to attend board meetings is not always the best use of their time, and having staff present may hinder some board discussions. If you want to establish a relationship between the board and the staff, invite board members to stop by for coffee or lunch during the working day. This will give board members a better understanding of how the office works and an opportunity for staff to show them a little of their daily routine.

Additional Resources

  • Better Board Meetings: Tips provided by Meet Smarter: A Guide to Better Nonprofit Board Meetings, Outi Flynn, 2004 BoardSource, and
    Ten Quick Ways to Invigorate Board Meetings: Jan Masaoka, Board Cafe, August 9, 2009
  • Executive Sessions: Outi Flynn, in Meeting, and Exceeding Expectations, sets out reasons for holding an executive session
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