Manage your Meetings: 5 Tips to an Efficient Nonprofit Board Meeting

How to Create Efficient Nonprofit Board Meetings


Although we can’t expect every nonprofit board meeting to be fun and full of laughs, they all do not have to be long and boring.  I have experienced many laborious board meetings and have heard many stories of extremely long-winded, inefficient and sometimes inappropriate board meetings.  Here are some tips that can help cut the length of your board meetings as well as make them more focused and therefore more enjoyable.

  • Assess your past meetings.
    •  How and where has the time been spent?  Do you spend a lot of time discussing details of the organizational management?  Are you taking time planning upcoming fundraisers?  Do you like to review the budget in detail?


  • Plan for upcoming meetings.
    • Use your knowledge of where the meeting time is usually spent and then determine if that time is being well spent.  Can your board do more work outside of meetings to review the planning of events or assessing the budget?  Defer a lot of this work to the appropriate committees.  Ensure that the board is allowing the Executive Director (ED) to handle management issues.  When the majority of the ‘work’ is done outside of the board meetings, then the committees and ED can bring in updates to the board so that the board is aware of the issues and can make the necessary decisions.


  •  Create an agenda that works.
    • When creating the agenda, ensure that you are scheduling time for a review of the past (monitoring financials and previous outcomes), present (how the organization is currently doing while taking into account the mission of the organization) and future (including the strategy, goals and vision) of your organization.    Schedule time for each topic that you will cover in the meeting.  Be reasonable, but efficient with your allotment of time.


  • Assign a facilitator.
    • Have one person who is good at facilitating (this does not necessarily have to be the Board Chairperson) take on the role of ‘facilitator’.  This person will be expected to monitor the time and to ensure that the meeting stays on track with the assigned and expected time and agenda items set out prior to the meeting’s commencement.


  • Be deliberate about your actions during the meeting. (Clearly take votes and assign tasks while meeting.)
    • Be as efficient as possible as your meeting progresses.  During the meeting, use a system such as Roberts Rules of Order, to take votes and to document those votes.  Also, be clear about what follow-up work needs to be done after the meeting and who will do that work.  Create an action plan template that will assign who will take on follow-up items, what they will accomplish, when they will complete the task and when they will present their work to either a committee and/or the board.


Taking a few easy steps prior to and during your meetings can help to ensure an efficient and effective meeting.  All board members will be grateful for this!


Photo credit to: Microsoft Office Clip Art


Jeanne Ward is a Consultant and Personal Strategist who brings her knowledge of psychology, strategy and personal fulfillment to her current work. Jeanne started her career by helping mentally ill inmates to ‘get their lives back on track’ as they integrated back into society from jail in NYC. She leveraged this experience with a Social Work degree to manage teams who were supporting people trying to move back into the workforce. She later lived in Atlanta, GA and Frankfurt, Germany where she began consulting with nonprofit organizations to guide them on their strategy, volunteer development, and organizational development as well as to support the development of their leaders and board of directors. After the jolt of a divorce, Jeanne found herself doing a lot of soul-searching. Digging deep, she arrived at a new-found appreciation for herself and the world around her. This journey taught her that when we start with improving ourselves, the benefits multiply. Jeanne realized that her strengths of strategic thinking, relationship building, and implementation planning could be combined into her ongoing passion of personal leadership. Hence, her personal strategy work was born. Jeanne helps men and women between the ages of 35 and 55 who are fed up with their corporate jobs to create fulfilling professional and personal lives through the development of a personal strategic plan. This work ensures that her clients identify their professional and personal goals as well as create a plan to make those goals a reality. Jeanne is also the Executive Director of the Atlanta Road Trotters Kid’s Running Club, a nonprofit organization that provides a platform for children to build a foundation of running health and fitness which leads to a better connection to the organized running community as well as a strong foundation of Discipline, Self-Esteem, Respect and Team Work. She has also co-authored a workbook on networking, founded and organized the National Association of Social Workers-Georgia-sponsored ‘Social Service Career Network’ and organized a summit for the National Alliance for Mentally Ill attended by over 100 organizations from 6 Atlanta counties. Previously, she sat on the board of NASW GA as their Secretary as well as on the board of NAMI GA/DeKalb as their Co-President, was a senior consultant for the Georgia Center for Nonprofits and helped to run a capital campaign for an independent school. Jeanne has an MSW from Hunter School of Social Work (City University of New York), an MA in Forensic Psychology from John Jay College of Criminal Justice (City University of New York) and a BA in Psychology from Emory University. Jeanne lives in Atlanta with her ten-year-old son.

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