The board meeting has been on the calendar for months. And yet, you show up to find only a third of the members in attendance. How frustrating!! What the heck is the problem? Don’t they care about your mission anymore? Are they all travelling suddenly? Are they thinking about leaving the board? Dang, you certainly don’t have time to waste like this.
This is a common board engagement issue and the good news is, it’s one that isn’t too difficult to solve.
The solution lies in your ability to communicate the right things in a timely fashion.
Check out these 3 ways to get board members to meetings:
1. Do the up-front work. Consistent, strong attendance requires some investment up front from the ED and Board Chair. In addition to creating a meaningful agenda, identify why you need them to attend. Is there a major decision pending? Do you need to brainstorm a strategic issue? Is there a new project starting and you need to plug them into the plan? Has there been an unexpected change that requires board attention? Are there new policies in the making? When you email the board the week before the meeting, be sure to tell them why you need them there and attach materials they may need to review in advance to be able to fully participate. Then….ask them to rsvp and follow up with personal calls to the folks who don’t respond. And if you’re thinking – they’re adults, I shouldn’t have to follow up like this. Maybe. But do you want a quorum or not? They aren’t trying to ruin your day, they are just distracteed. So move forward and try to get over it. Maybe next time they will respond.
2. Make the meetings matter. I eluded to this in #1 – if there isn’t’ a compelling reason to meet, then maybe you should cancel the meeting. Everyone deserves the chance to weigh in; this can look like a small group activity, a world cafe format, a large group discussion, etc. If all you’re doing is reporting information, I wouldn’t attend either! Review what the role of a nonprofit board is and be sure your agenda is focused on the right things. And have you intentionally included a way for your volunteers to connect with the mission? A brief video or participant story goes a long way to keeping your board members inspired. (if you need help with your agenda, revisit this video blog post).
3. Follow up immediately and then again. Too many of us forget this step, even if we’re good at #1 and #2. But what we know is that the magic of board engagement happens between meetings. So whether you had a great discussion, made a key decision, agreed on next steps on a project or set a new policy – get the minutes out within a few days. Better yet, when you send the email with the attachment, list a few bullets with the most important information and action steps. This supports a culture of accountability and keeps everyone on the same page. And for anyone who truly couldn’t make the meeting, it tells them you missed them and want to be sure they feel included. Additionally, any action items that need individual follow up should get attention from the appropriate board member (e.g. committee chair) to support success.
At the end of the day, when you invest a bit of time and consideration up front and then after meetings, the time you save and the frustration you avoid is significant. And you’ll increase overall board engagement by making good use of their time and talent.
Want to discuss your specific situation? Schedule a call with me here and let’s talk through it.