10 Practical Things You Can Do This Month to Enhance Your Board

[box type="info" border="full"]Guest Author: Jean Block[/box]

Board Meetings

Do you ever look around the boardroom and wonder, “Who replaced all these brilliant people with zombies? Have you ever sat through an endless presentation and wished you could disappear into a black hole? Are your board meetings productive or do they resemble an attack of the killer rubber-stampers?

Try these 5 practical tips to improve your board meetings:

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  1. Send the agenda, minutes, financials, and any materials to be discussed to all participants in advance with the expectation they will come to the meeting prepared to act and ask pertinent questions…or abstain from voting and not hold up those who came prepared.
  2. Start on time and end on time. If a thorny issue is on the agenda, alert board members in advance that the meeting will run long and get their commitment to block out more time.
  3. Use at least a modified version of Robert’s Rules of Order to keep the business moving along and prevent side tracking.
  4. Put time limits on the agenda for discussion if it is hard to keep the meetings on track. Appoint a time keeper and stick to it!
  5. And what about that strategic plan you worked so hard on? Keep it alive by putting a progress report on every Board meeting agenda!
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Committee Meetings

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  • Only 39% of boards are prepared ‘to a great extent’ for meetings (e.g. read materials in advance, follow up on assignments, etc.).
  • According to chief executives, 38% of time is spent on committee and staff reports compared to 34% on strategic thinking and discussions.  Only 52% of chief executives describe their board committees as working well. The reasons? Lack of attendance at committee meetings, unclear committee assignments and small boards with not enough members to go around.
  • Only 52% of chief executives describe their board committees as working well. The reasons? Lack of attendance at committee meetings, unclear committee assignments and small boards with not enough members to go around.
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Try these 5 practical tips for improving board committees:

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  1. Other than the critical standing committees required to operate effectively, only establish committees or task forces that are required to carry out the annual strategic plan of work. This may require a bylaws review, but you should do that every 3-5 years, anyway.
  2. Establish committee goals and plans of action based on the strategic plan. Put them in writing. Clarify roles of committees and committee chairs to ensure everyone is on the same page.
  3. Who says committees have to be comprised of board members only? I’d advise that every Board committee be chaired by a board member, but add committee members with expertise required, members who want to get their feet wet with governance, or others who will bring a diversity of skills and viewpoints. Spread the work around!
  4. Set up a standard form for committee reports and require the reports in writing and in advance of the board meeting. At the board meeting discuss only the items that require the board’s input, such as changes to goals, changes to budget, unexpected obstacles or opportunities.
  5. Set time limits for committee and staff reports. Require that the majority of board meeting time is spent on strategic thinking, not reports.
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Jean BlockWritten by guest blogger Jean Block, president of Jean Block Consulting and Social Enterprise Ventures.  Jean is a virtual faculty member of our 501(c)(3) University project and is one of our on-demand webinar presenters.

You can find these are other practical ideas in The ABCs of Building Better Boards, available as a download at her web site, www.jblockinc.com .

Greg McRay is the founder and CEO of The Foundation Group. He is registered with the IRS as an Enrolled Agent and specializes in 501(c)(3) and other tax exemption issues.

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