As a new Board Chair, I’ve been reading BoardSource’s 2015 Leading with Intent with interest. The report is a comprehensive review of nonprofit Board practices, policies and performance, building on data that BoardSource has collected and analyzed for over 20 years.

Now that I’m chairing Board meetings myself, I’m aware of my responsibility to facilitate meetings that allow more time for meaningful discussion on strategic issues. Leading with Intent noted the following trends around Board meetings:

  • Half of nonprofit Boards meet 6 or fewer times per year , therefore efficient and effective Board meetings require careful planning, especially between the Chief Executive Officer and the Board Chair
  • Board meeting attendance is waning, with 85% of Boards having 75% attendance, therefore every Board should have, and consistently enforce, a meeting attendance policy
  • Meeting time can be spent more productively, by reducing the time spent on committee or staff reports
  • Nonprofit Boards are increasingly using tools to improve meeting productivity (e.g. consent agendas and dashboard reports)
  • Executive sessions are a common but cautiously used practice. Executive sessions provide a venue for handling issues that are best discussed in private (business transactions, compensation and litigation), for fostering robust discourse, and for strengthening trust and communication. Executive sessions help maintain confidentiality, create a mechanism for Board independence, and enhance relationships among Board members and the Chief Executive Officer.

A final take-away, from CompassPoint’s article 8 Ways to Better Board Meetings: ‘During board meetings, replace verbal report-outs with questions on the agenda that will provoke discussion. To help make this shift from information transmittal to inquiry and discussion, design agendas to include questions next to each topic area. If there are no relevant questions to go with a topic, then the information that it pertains to should be included in the board packet but doesn’t need space on the agenda. Creating an agenda this way reinforces the expectation that board members come prepared.’ Click here to read more.

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Donella Wilson

Donella Wilson, CPA, leads GHJ’s Nonprofit Practice and is also President and Chief Philanthropy Officer of GHJ Foundation, GHJ’s vehicle for purposeful and proactive giving to the community. A leader in both the nonprofit and accounting communities, Donella was named a finalist in the 2021 Los…Learn More