Five (5) Important Things You Can Do To Improve Board Meetings

Board meetings are often not much fun. Here are five things you can do to dramatically improve your levels of board member enjoyment and engagement and improve your Board effectiveness.

  1. Create an Annual Board Calendar

A Board Calendar is a single document that lists the 12 months of your fiscal year in columns across the top of the page, and all the things that you have to do as a board each year in rows along the side of the page. The annual “To Do” list is often organized into the following headings:

·         Financial Management ·         Strategy & Operations
·         Board Development ·         Board Committees
·         Executive Director Development ·         Monitoring and Policy Making
·         Stakeholder Communications ·         Fund Development

This calendar then serves as the basis for the Agenda’s for each of your Board meetings. Using a board calendar ensures that the Board doesn’t forget do to anything that it is supposed to do and it ensures that everything it is required to do is done on a timely basis.

  1. Keep a Decision Log

Without a single place to record all decisions the Board makes and all the motions that it passes, boards often revisit topics frequently and discuss the same old topics multiple times. Use a decision log – a single document that lists all of the board decision and motions by chronologically by month.

  1. Create Better, More Detailed Agendas for Board Meetings

Most agenda’s for board meetings aren’t very useful. Best practices have developed recently which can make agenda’s much more useful tools. First, use a Consent Agenda. Do a quick Google search and you will find that a Consent Agenda will allow you to approve routine committee reports, and items that do not require discussion or decisions at the same time as you approve your minutes from your previous meeting. This can significantly reduce the amount of time boards spend going over information items that directors have likely already read preparing for the meeting. It also allows more meeting time to discuss important issues and have more strategic and generative discussions. Consent agenda’s require your board to read and understand all information items prior to the meeting. If they have any questions, they should resolve those questions prior to the meeting so as not to waste everyone else’s time. However, Board members always have the option at the beginning of the meeting to pull an item out of the Consent Agenda if they feel it requires Board discussion

Second, use an Annotated Agenda. Annotated Agenda’s provide much more information that just a simple listing of topics. Annotated Agendas often provide background information on the topic as well as the desired outcome for raising it at a board meeting. They also show who will be responsible for leading discussion. Topics are often categorized according to whether they are for discussion purposes only or whether a decision is required. Annotated Agendas usually have a specific amount of time allocated to each issue. Annotated Agenda’s help focus discussion and often significantly reduce the time required for each item. Some organizations use a chart format with the following headings: Item Type (Information, Discussion, Decision); Item Name; Background, Attachments.

  1. End Meetings with One-Minute Essay

The One-minute Essay is an opportunity at, or very near, the end of a board meeting for all board members to fill out a piece of paper or slip with an answer to this question (or a question along these lines):

If we were to continue this discussion, or if the board meeting were to go for another 30 minutes, what would you say next?

Or alternatively: If the meeting were to continue for another 30 minutes, what additional items should be discussed, that did not get raised? What additional items or issues would you have liked to raise tonight?

The anonymous responses are collected by the chair, or someone, and can be used to craft the agenda for the next meeting!

One-minute Essays are a great way to ensure that all board members have an opportunity to voice things that they think are really important, but often do not get discussed in the normal course of events.

  1. Evaluate Your Board Meetings – Every Time

Board members like it when Board meetings:

·         Start on time ·         Allow everyone to participate
·         End on time ·         Are a safe environment to voice concerns
·         Have priority topics ·         Are well organized
·         Engage Board members in meaningful discussion ·         Are respectful of everyone

Meeting evaluations can take under 5 minutes at the end of every meeting and they give prompt feedback to Board Chairs. One of the Chair’s primarily roles is to create enjoyable board meetings where all board members have the opportunity to make meaningful contributions. Help your Board Chair make board meetings better. Insist on regular meeting evaluations.  Do a quick Google search and you will find a number of template to choose from.


Implementing any one of the above tactics to improve Board meetings will have a noticeable impact on the level of enjoyment and level of engagement of Board members. Imagine what you’re Board meetings would be like if you implemented all five!