Having your first board meeting can be scary. Your board members are volunteering their time and effort to help fulfill your organization’s mission, so you want to make the most out of your meetings.

Although all boards are comprised differently, here are 5 general tips to help ensure that your organization’s board is getting the most out of it’s board meetings.

1. Have an agenda (and provide it to your board ahead of the meeting)

This will help your board prepare for anything they may need to bring to the meeting and also give them an idea of what will be discussed. By providing an agenda in advance, everyone will be able to formulate their ideas, questions, and notes ahead of time, which contributes to a more productive meeting.

If other topics come up, take note of them, but set them aside to be discussed at a later meeting.
If you are in charge of creating the agenda, do not attempt to cover so much in one meeting to the point where A. you do not have time to cover everything, and B. you overwhelm the board members with an excess of information. It’s usually a good practice to pick out your top 3-5 most important agenda items. If you have time for more, great! But don’t feel like you have to cram everything into one meeting.

2. Capture action items in the board minutes and review them at the end of the meeting.

Be certain that every board member leaves knowing the actionable tasks that they are responsible for. Holding accountability for all tasks and board members will keep your nonprofit running smoothly. Share the action items along with the board meeting minutes to all board members following the meeting for everyone’s records, and to help keep everyone on the same page. (Most commonly, transcribing and distributing the board minutes is the Secretary’s responsibility.)

Effective meeting minutes can save time and track progress of the organization and your goals.

3. Start and end your board meetings on time.

This tip may not seem very important but everyone has busy schedules and people can often get frustrated if they show up on time and yet the meeting does not start on time. Or if it ends up running significantly later than expected.

Frustrated board members can lead to ineffectiveness, and an unwillingness to accomplish things.
People’s attention tends to drift if board meetings last too long. So be respectful of your board member’s time, and set your schedule and stick to it. (Over two hours would usually be considered too long for an average board meetings. However if you have a specific event coming up, such as a fundraiser or gala, two hours might be necessary.)

4. Everyone should know their role and key responsibilities.

When people know ahead of time what is expected of them, they are more likely to follow through on their responsibilities.

Depending on the size of your board, members can be juggling multiple roles and tasks which can get confusing for not only them, but the entire board.

If there is transparency and communication on the board and the expectations of the members, it will lead to higher level of effectiveness.

5. Be respectful, and encourage others to do so as well.

Board meetings are a time when members can share their opinions regarding different matters, and sometimes they will conflict with another member’s opinions.

Nothing will be accomplished if members resent one another. So make sure being respectful towards one another is one of the cornerstones of your board meetings.