Ever been to a board meeting before? If not, that is ok! Everyone has to start somewhere. Just so you’re ready, here’s a rundown of what to expect (more or less) in a nonprofit board meeting, and some suggestions for helping things run smoothly.

Most board meetings have a similar progression and agenda.

It’s helpful to set up an agenda your organization can use on a regular basis and stick to it, so that members can submit items that they would like to discuss, and it’s predictable where and when within the agenda you can address each issue.

The secretary is responsible for sending out minutes and the upcoming agenda in advance of upcoming meetings. When this ought to happen is up to your organization, but I’ll take a guess and say that most people would prefer this information a week in advance instead of a day ahead.

The executive committee is responsible for setting the agenda, and so any members of the board who would like to ensure that additional items be included for discussion ought to communicate with the folks responsible for drafting the agenda. Check out my last post for more information about who does what on the board.

Generally speaking, this is how a nonprofit board meeting progresses:

  1. President calls the meeting to order.
  2. President reviews previous meeting notes, and calls on the board to approve them.
    1. Side Note: Board approvals usually require that someone make what’s called a “motion”. This is a suggestion that everyone present agree to move forward with that given decision. So, in this case, the president might ask, “Motion to approve the minutes from last month’s meeting?” and then two additional board members will need to act. One will say something like “I move that we approve the notes from our last meeting” and then another, different member will say “I second” which means that they agree, and the group can move on to the next item on the agenda.
  3. President leads discussions according to the order specified in the agenda.
    1. Side Note: Pauses may be necessary to take votes or debate issues. The president and secretary will need to keep an eye on timing in order to ensure that all agenda items can be addressed in the time allotted. If you run out of time for an item, you can always come back to it later in the meeting if time allows.
  4. If you need to take a vote, a member of the board will need to “motion” that the group take a vote on the issue. Once a board member motions for a vote, someone will need to Second their motion in order to formally spur a vote.  In order for a binding decision to be made, you will need what’s called a quorum, or a majority (or super-majority) of total board members (including those not present at the meeting). It probably goes without saying, but the board should not motion for a vote or take a vote if there are not enough members of the board present at that meeting to constitute a quorum. The vote will need to be postponed or taken another way. There are lots of online polling tools available for free. I happen to like Doodle for scheduling, and Survey Monkey for other types of questions. In most cases, members of the organization’s staff are not allowed to vote.

At the end of the meeting, the president calls the meeting to a close, and the secretary lets everyone know when the next meeting will be. Afterward, the secretary also promptly distributes the meeting notes/minutes to all the board members, and follows up to remind everyone about the scheduling for the next meeting.

At a time agreed upon by the board (decide once, and then keep things consistent), the secretary will then remind board members of upcoming meetings and provide them with the agenda for the next meeting so that everyone knows what topics will be discussed.

Established rules and agendas take a lot of stress out of meeting with your board and allow you to get things done and make decisions within a set amount of time.

Role descriptions help your volunteers understand what their responsibilities are, so that you can better distribute tasks and work efficiently towards meeting your organization’s goals.

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