February 17, 2016
How do nonprofit staff and board members hold effective meetings? If a nonprofit doesn’t effectively prepare for a gathering of stakeholders, those attending the meeting can become apprehensive and disengaged fairly quickly. Personnel may even begin to view the event as a waste of their time because it’s disorganized and no actionable outcomes are achieved.
In reality, meetings can be highly productive encounters for everyone involved if attendees take the appropriate steps to prepare for them. Below are 10 tips for nonprofit professionals looking to make their next meeting highly efficient and meaningful. For additional meeting productivity tips, visit HelloFocus.com.
When nonprofit board members come together to discuss issues related to governance and creating a sustainable organization, they should take a structured approach. According to The Fundraising Authority, many nonprofits allow too much room for interpretation while developing an agenda by broadly labeling items as a “fundraising update” or “outstanding issues.” Additionally, it may be worth the board members’ time to review recent fundraising or membership developments as they pertain to governance, and there should be a specific time limit established for each action item.
Part and parcel of a functional nonprofit meeting is keeping it within a reserved time frame. According to Wild Apricot, a software service provider for membership organizations, it’s imperative that meetings begin and finish on time. It not only sets a bad precedent for future gatherings if they routinely begin 5 – 10 minutes late, but also negatively impacts attendees’ perception of the event. In other words, it demonstrates a lack of respect for the members who show up on time. In addition, meetings that run over the allotted limit similarly reflects poorly on the organization. The Fundraising Authority explained board members are volunteers and may have other obligations.
Even the most efficient meeting won’t likely address all nuances of a conflict occurring within a nonprofit organization. As Wild Apricot suggested, limit the talking points surrounding a controversy to a specific priority in order to effectively make progress. For instance, if an association has issues retaining members, don’t attempt to pin down all causes during the span of an hour-long meeting, but rather select on to focus on during the current meeting.
According to Forbes, there aren’t many reasons to bring iPhones or iPads into a meeting. These electronic devices often end up being more of a distraction than a tool that facilitates discussion. There are organizations that have effectively gone paperless and use tablets to distribute agendas ahead of time, but it’s up to the participants to ensure the technology isn’t being abused. From emails to mobile apps, there are a number of ways that meeting attendees can get drawn away from the discussion at hand and not put forth their full effort.
If nonprofits plan meetings haphazardly – for instance, when significant amounts of time elapse between gatherings – it’s likely too many events will occur than can be effectively discussed during a single meeting. Accordingly, Inc. Magazine recommended staying regular with these gatherings. With greater consistency, attendees can anticipate when they can expect to participate.
It’s likely that not all meetings will be pertinent to each staff or board member. As a result, Forbes suggested keeping a keen eye on the individuals invited to the event. The topic for discussion should be directly relevant and applicable to the attendees – otherwise, they’ll likely become alienated because they won’t have anything to add.
Bruce Lesley, senior governance consultant for BoardSource, spoke on a Stanford Graduate School of Business video indicating that there should be a person in charge of enabling discussion. Lesley recommended the board chair is the person for the job, and he or she can facilitate conversations that are interactive. The outcome of the meeting should produce results beyond the contributions of any single attendee.
Nonprofit Quarterly indicated reports serve a definite purpose, but just not as an item to be read during a meeting. It’s understood that meeting attendees can likely read through important reports before the event, but taking up precious minutes during a meeting to read verbatim isn’t an effective use of time. If anything, a report should serve as a spring board for further discussion or for members to ask for clarification if needed.
Any effective agenda is generally accompanied by thorough meeting minutes. They may not be the most exciting part of an active discussion, but they’re often necessary to keep all attendees on the same page, especially in advance of future gatherings.
According to Inc., a meeting should end with sufficient time to review the decisions and outcomes – even five minutes is sufficient.
First Nonprofit has saved us so much money over the state’s program. We had one little glitch with the state recently and we contacted FNP immediately. FNP staff called us back immediately and moved to remedy the problem.
First Nonprofit has been a great partner. They have helped us saved hundreds of thousands of dollars! They have awesome resources for our nonprofit organization. Thanks for the partnership.
Life is certainly busy these days but having business partners like First Nonprofit has made some of the process hassle free. We have worked with this team for years. When we changed payroll systems, they outlined every step. I think this team is terrific and I know they get the job done! Thank you, Cruz, to all the team at FNP.
FNP has helped our agency to save thousands of dollars every year on our unemployment coverage. The service is phenomenal, and we are thankful to their team as our partner. My experience working with Marshall on the advocacy around UE for nonprofits was also a highlight as someone who teaches advocacy and lobbying for nonprofits. Really, your whole team is top shelf, so thank YOU!
Chicago Children’s Theatre has greatly benefited from our partnership with First Nonprofit, and I have always enjoyed working with the staff on our filings and any complicated questions. I would not hesitate to recommend First Nonprofit to fellow nonprofits. We’re very happy customers.
FNP is a great resource for Daniel Kids. To have a TPA that we can count on to take point on not only managing our unemployment claims, but to support and guide any protest hearing, is invaluable. All the professional support staff we have worked with have been excellent, very knowledgeable and responsive. We are grateful for the help and support, thank you.
When I first began in my position at my organization, I hadn’t had experience working with a company like FNP. The staff was so patient and helpful in helping to explain the benefits of First Nonprofit. Anytime I reach out with a question I receive a quick, clear, and thorough response. I’m so thankful that we decided to partner with FNP. Their excellence in customer service, coupled with their variety of packages frees us up to truly serve our staff and community with a peace of mind knowing that our organization is protected against unanticipated unemployment insurance expenses.
First Nonprofit gets an A+ in my book. You are so easy to work with & very knowledgeable! Whether it is my quarterly correspondence with Kim or my random interactions with Dawn about a bond … I am so pleased that I get to work with such a helpful company. Thank you!