Building a board -- Part 2

Strengthening boards lead to more effective meetings.

As a follow-up to the Michigan State University Extension news article Building a Board, this article addresses strategies for strengthening collaborative boards and effectively conducting meetings, both of which are imperative to organizational success.

Boards can often feel fragmented and divided over time due to busy schedules or low motivation for doing anything but attending annual meetings. Some of the more common approaches to spur interest and build collaboration are to hold quarterly meetings and annual social events.

More frequent meetings allow for consistent and deeper interaction between executive director(s) and board members, allowing relationships to grow organically. Annual social events are not just appropriate for around holidays; they also offer an opportunity for staff, board members and maybe even communities to interact with each other. This also can serve as a networking event, an unofficial strategy for recruiting additional board members and is a perfect opportunity to encourage the exchange of new ideas. In addition, quarterly meeting and social events provide a way for members and staff to keep each other abreast of current trends and strategies relative to an organization’s mission and objectives.

There are important considerations other than how often an organization meets. Just as or even more important is holding effective meetings, as the quality of meetings can make or break a board member’s desire to actively participate or even attend. Holding more effective meetings can begin with identifying and supporting group values (such as equality or openness) or by better balancing the tasks between members.  

Ensuring that each voice is heard demonstrates equality as does allowing for openness and the exchange of ideas. One method worth implementing is establishing norms, which serve as rules that members are expected to follow during meetings. An example could be to “assume good intentions” or a “no cell phone” policy meant to eliminate disruptions and keep the meeting moving along.

Another example could include opening each meeting with a round-robin format, allowing each member a specific length of time, established beforehand, to discuss the issues at hand before other members are granted their turn to speak.

Employing such tactics for strengthening boards and delivering effective meetings ultimately builds relationships, builds respect for one another, and leaves members feeling a sense of accomplishment.

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