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Start with the Outcome in Mind

Nadia Prescott

How many board meetings have you attended where most of the time is spent discussing or reviewing activities which have already happened?

Typically, much time in a board meeting is wasted listening to reports from committees and the agenda is depressingly repetitive; the executive director report, financial update, the program committee report and on it goes. Shifting this dynamic gives you valuable time, more productive meetings and most importantly, more engaged and committed board members. If you can relate
to this, you are not alone.

As the board president and executive director jointly prepare the agenda, less is more. Think about the most important topics that relate to the mission and strategic goals of the organization and the outcome you want from each discussion topic.

Take programs as an example. Maybe it’s time to expand or refresh your programming and you want to consider a program change that generates some fee-for-service as part of your strategic plan goals or reach a new audience whether through updating an existing program, or adding a new program. Or, perhaps you are at the beginning of your research period and want to set up a team to explore different options and make recommendations to the board at the next board meeting. It is important to know your topic and the outcome required.

In this case, you might want agreement on the way forward: be to set up a committee or taskforce to explore fee for service options and report back to the Board within 3 months and/or decide what you might need to give up in order to implement something new.
And think about a consent agenda. Typical items such as board and committee meeting reports, minutes and other routine items are included under this “one umbrella” and are approved without discussion. Unless of course, a board member asks for a topic be added for discussion.

Distributing the information and an agenda in advance of a meeting even noting the desired outcome will enable board members to come to the meeting knowing what is expecting of them. It is a way to ensure the meeting will be forward focused with engaged discussion tied to an overall organization goal. If you adopt a consent agenda format, information MUST be sent out in advance.
Preparing for a meeting in this way changes much more than the mindset of the board chair and executive director. It means time together – as a team – to think about the most important topics for the organization. Relationship building is a side benefit of this approach!

To help get your board meetings on track, contact