Whether your association or nonprofit meets monthly or yearly, management makes all the difference. Here is my list (including a few horror stories):
- Calendar the meeting well in in advance. Double check to see which type of calendar your directors use, google or outlook or something else. Verify receipt and send two reminders as the date approaches.
- Make certain the location is comfortable. Sounds obvious but you might check to make sure there is adequate seating, writing space, working air conditioning, etc. We had a backyard meeting once that ended up attracting bees. There certainly was buzz from that meeting.
- Ask attendees for their input to the agenda in time for review by the president. If approved, there may be additional materials needed for that topic’s discussion.
- Don’t have surprise agenda items. We just came from a board meeting in which a topic new to everyone was introduced. It might have been a great idea, but the immediate reaction was one of suspicion. Attendees felt disrespected. It’s hard to come back from that.
- So, keep to the agenda including the approximate time you’ve allowed for each section. Directors are busy people with days/evenings preplanned. Again, respect your volunteers.
- But that doesn’t mean you limit discussion on important topics. Anticipate those and manage the meeting with an eye to productivity.
- If tensions flare, call a break. This doesn’t invalidate those with strong feelings but helps defuse a situation that could end very badly. I’ve seen a board member stomp out, take up ‘residence’ at the bar downstairs and bad mouth the entire association. There were signs that were ignored.
- The opposite is having board members who almost never speak at a meeting. The president must direct questions or illicit opinion from everyone at some time during the meeting. That director is there for a reason, hopefully to contribute to the mission of the organization. If they continue to be mute, invite them off the board and find someone who is truly engaged in the goals of your nonprofit.
The above items are not intended to be an exhaustive list, but it’s a start. Association management firms are professionals. There can be hundreds of little things that make up a successful meeting or event. Welcome their advice.