Dealing With Unprepared Board Members

Unprepared board members

As with any group setting, when you bring a board of directors together, some members will be more prepared than others. Most directors will study reports in advance and be ready to share their input accordingly.

Others, however, may feel more inclined to coast through the meeting, glean what they can, and share opinionated statements on the spot. These unprepared board members can occasionally create a difficult group dynamic.

The good news, though, is that there are steps your board can take towards encouraging (and even helping) members to adequately prepare.

  1. Set clear expectations.

When new board members join, take some time during orientation to outline what the board will expect from them in regard to meeting preparation. Let them know how early board meeting materials will go out, so they can plan their schedule accordingly.
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How to Take Meeting Minutes

how to take meeting minutes

For many people, the phrase “taking minutes” is intimidating. Contrary to the way it sounds, though, taking meeting minutes does not involve writing down a minute-by-minute account of everything that happens in a board meeting. The individual who is taking the minutes does need to be keenly aware of what is happening during the board meeting, but they won’t be expected to quote everything that their fellow board members have said.

The purpose of taking board meeting minutes is mostly to provide a legal record of motions, votes, next steps, the progress of action items, etc. For that reason, it’s important that the minute-taker follow along closely with the movement of the meeting and the decisions made within it. The minute-taker need not record anything that could be viewed as subjective—in fact, they should avoid using adjectives and adverbs to ensure that they’re only recording factual information from the meeting at hand.
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Board Meeting Chair Responsibilities

Air traffic control

A successful board meeting happens in large part because of exceptional leadership from the board chair. Being an effective chairperson encapsulates many different qualities. In particular, the chairperson must be a good facilitator of discussion in order to help board members make the best decisions possible. In order to facilitate those discussions in a fair and well-ordered way, the chairperson should have a working knowledge of Robert’s Rules of Order. They are expected to be able to guide the rest of the board members through the parliamentary protocol.

As the facilitator of boardroom discussion, it’s the responsibility of the chair to ensure that all of the agenda is covered and that the meeting isn’t derailed by spending too much time on any one topic. Additionally, they’re responsible for making sure that both sides of any debate receive equal speaking time to make their case. The chair can also help directors form motions and provide clarity if an aspect of the parliamentary process becomes confusing. Primarily, however, it’s important that the board chair guides the boardroom through each stage of the meeting, which are:
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Secondary Motions and How They Work

Secondary motions

Beyond the basic building blocks of main motions, there are three categories of secondary motions: subsidiary, incidental, and privileged. Though it may sound overwhelming, each of these kinds of motions has a very specific role in how board members can interact with main motions.

Subsidiary Motions

Simply stated, subsidiary motions are put forth in order to propose changes or actions upon the main motion. When made, this kind of secondary motion supersedes the main motion and must be addressed before returning to the question of the main motion. Subsidiary motions have an order of precedence, which must be followed in a parliamentary setting:
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Main Motions: The Building Blocks of the Boardroom

Main motions

“Mr. Chairman, I move that…we learn more about main motions!

Seconded!”

Main motions are what people usually envision when they think of making a motion in a setting that utilizes parliamentary procedure. These statements usually begin with the statement, “I move that…” and must be seconded by another member of the gathering in order to proceed. According to Robert’s Rules Online, a main motion (sometimes called a principal motion) is “a motion made to bring before the assembly, for its consideration, on any particular subject…It takes precedence of nothing…and it yields to all privileged, incidental, and subsidiary motions.” In other words, main motions are the larger questions that are up for debate, but they can be altered, delayed, or affected by the other types of motions.
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Understanding Boardroom Parliamentary Procedure

boardroom parliamentary procedure gavel

Why does a motion always have to be seconded? Why can’t a board chair just call a vote at their discretion? Although board meetings mostly involve basic discussion, the ins and outs of boardroom parliamentary procedure can be daunting and raise many questions for new board members and experienced board members alike.

Most boardrooms lean heavily on Robert’s Rules of Order. This particular style of parliamentary procedure is “based on the consideration of the rights of the majority, of the minority, of individual members, of absentee members, of all of these groups taken together.” Boards commit to a set of guidelines like those laid out by Robert’s Rules for a number of reasons: to establish order during the meeting, to keep discussion focused and moving forward, to make the voting process more clear, and to provide equal footing for all board members.
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Being a Better Nonprofit Board Member

Better nonprofit board member

People often assume that being a good nonprofit board member boils down to two basic capabilities: being a good fundraiser and being a good donor. However, we know that being an outstanding nonprofit board member takes a whole lot more. As the world continues to be shaped and stimulated by the good work of nonprofit organizations, it’s important that board members embrace their full role in corporate governance. They have the potential to help their organizations reach new levels of growth and impact.

FIELD TRIPS! First and foremost, board members should interact with their organization’s mission where it’s happening. Taking field visits is a great way to understand the nonprofit’s ultimate output. It also helps board members connect with their role in a more passionate way. Not to mention, these visits lead to enlightening questions from board members and an evaluative process to help the board strategize for an effective path forward.
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Directorpoint Celebrates Its Best Year Yet

Directorpoint

We don’t mean to pat ourselves on the back, but we think 2016 was our best year yet! Not only did we receive some outstanding recognition, add exciting clients, and open an office in another country, we also worked tirelessly to make our software even more impactful and user-friendly. Some of our most memorable accomplishments from 2016 include:

  • Experienced 68.3% client growth and were privileged to have formed partnerships with several outstanding organizations, such as the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (P.S. They give out the Oscars!).
  • Established an Australia-based office and data center to better serve our international client base.
  • Were named one of the fastest growing companies based in Birmingham by Birmingham Business Journal’s “Fast Track 30” for the second consecutive year!
  • Introduced our weekly newsletter –“The Point” as well as consistent, informative blog content on our website. (Subscribe for regular updates!)

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Effective Remote Board Meetings

Effective Remote Board Meetings

Ideally, every member of your board can be present at each meeting you schedule. Real world responsibilities often get in the way of that goal, though. Many directors serve on multiple boards, travel for work, or run companies of their own. In some instances, joining a meeting remotely is the best that can be done. So how do you maximize the experience in order to get the most effective results from remote board meetings?

  1. First, double-check your local laws regarding remote board meetings.

Most states in the U.S. allow the practice as long as all members of the board can hear everything that is spoken and respond in real-time.
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Better Board Meetings in the New Year

better board meetings in 2017

Launching into the New Year is all about personal improvement and goal setting, so why not extend that “can do” attitude to the boardroom, too? Here are some practices you can employ to ensure that you bring your very best to the table in 2017.

  1. Prepare prepare prepare.

It’s easy to overlook this basic board member function, but it’s your duty as a director to come to meetings ready to participate to the best of your ability. At Directorpoint, we encourage admins to get board books and related meeting information out to directors early, so they can spend time reviewing it before meetings begin. More prep time means more time that board members can spend on strategic thinking instead of being bogged down in reports and reviewing older information.
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