The board engagement is key for successful major gift fundraising. By extension, meaningful board meetings not only serve the organization and its senior team, but also enhance board engagement.
I share one of the best articles I’ve seen about board meetings. It’s written by a NYC-based venture capitalist, Fred Wilson. It is told through the lens of a for-profit company, but I believe you will find that the vast majority of the techniques and thoughts apply equally to your nonprofit board. The article was posted on April 2. 2012 under the blog AVC…. musings of a NYC VC and is simply titled, “The Board of Directors: Board Meetings.”
I encourage you to visit the article directly as it is a blog and the comments are interesting as well. Here’s the link: http://www.avc.com/a_vc/2012/04/the-board-of-directors-board-meetings.html
Here are some of the techniques that caught my attention:
- A “keeping me up at night” list. The Executive Director/President/CEO reviews the list at the start of every meetings. The list shows both the current list and the items that were on the list at the last meeting along with their current status.This list quickly gets the board into “the mind of the CEO.” It’s easy to see what has and hasn’t been resolved as well as the new items that have emerged. The list drives the discussion.
- Call a staff-free executive session at the end of each meeting. It may last 5 minutes or it may take half an hour. Use the time to discuss the meeting and its key takeaways are. Then invite the ED back in to debrief the session or have the Chair of the Board meet with the ED. “This is an opportunity for the Board to provide feedback to the CEO on the business, the team, and performance, and the strategy.”
- Board meeting are for the benefit of the ED and senior team. “I’ve always loved the idea of a “kitchen cabinet” and to me that is what a great Board meeting should feel like. The Board should be a set of experienced, engaged, and helpful advisors and Board meetings should be a place and a time for that group to provide the most help and assistance they can,” notes Fred.
Imagine the board meeting that inspires board members to think: “Oh good — there’s a board meeting next week.” By focusing the board on issues and taking advantage of their collective wisdom, it is possible.