How to Create Better Board Agendas

Better Board AgendasThe agenda and the board book have been the centerpieces of board meetings for decades. While the board book provides important information and reporting, the agenda acts as the guide for the course of the board meeting.

It may seem like nothing more than a simple list, but the agenda wields serious influence over a board meeting’s progression.

You’re probably thinking, how can a basic list be improved? But we’re here to say that it can be done!

Does this agenda item involve everyone?

This may seem like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised how often boards include agenda items that should actually be discussed in smaller committees or one-on-one outside of the board meeting. Boardroom time should be focused on group-oriented tasks and decision-making in order to get the most collaborative value out of your gathering.

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Directorpoint’s “ActiveConvert” Builds Board Books in Seconds

board bookIn most cases, board books are quite large. For companies who’ve smartly chosen to go paperless, they know that uploading hundreds of documents can also take some time. Thanks to our new “ActiveConvert” technology, though, Directorpoint customers will be blown away by how quickly their board book comes together in our software.

We’re so proud of this major time-saving tool, and we’ve decided to call it “Active Convert” because our software begins converting your board books the second that you upload a document. In other words, as you’re adding information, our converter is working quickly behind the scenes to prepare the files as a cohesive board packet.
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The Limitations of Board Meeting Software Alternatives

The Limitations of Board Meeting Software Alternatives

It’s no secret that effective board meeting software comes with a price tag. While that amount can range from low-cost to fairly expensive, some companies are eager to seek out what they see as “cost-free” file-sharing options such as Dropbox or Google Drive.

While both of these board meeting software alternatives provide file storage and the ability to share documents, the “free” versions of these accounts have serious limitations.

Plus, this style of file sharing can create frustration for board members who are forced to access board information through multiple platforms: email, cloud storage, calendar tools, etc.

Not So “Free”

Although Dropbox and Google Drive both have a free account option, it doesn’t take long for boards to surpass the allowed amounts of data storage, which can lead to monthly costs for the organization based on file sizes and/or their number of users. Plus, board members must create and manage their own accounts using this type of file sharing tool. Unlike Directorpoint, which provides unlimited storage and is perfect for archiving past meeting information, file-sharing alternatives make their profit by nickel and diming customers for more storage.
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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” can be intimidating. The individual who is taking the minutes needs 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

board meeting chair

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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What is a Main Motion? The Building Block of the Boardroom

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

Seconded!”
what is a main motion

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, boardroom parliamentary procedure can 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. First, these rules establish order during the meeting. Second, they keep discussion focused and moving forward. Third, they make the voting process more clear. And fourth, they provide equal footing for all board members.
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Being a 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.
Better nonprofit board member

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.

Take Field Trips or Participate in Volunteer Events

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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