Three Instant Improvements for Board Agendas and Accountability

We're talking here about something even easier than what's on the agenda: here are three instant ways to improve meetings simply by what you put on the piece of paper titled "Board Agenda:"

1. Put your mission statement at the top of every agenda. It quietly reminds people of your organization's purpose throughout the meeting. If you have a business model statement, place it there as well.

2. Right under the date, place a list of what individuals agreed to do at the last board meeting. See example to right:

3. At the end of the agenda, keep a running list of topics coming up. For example, at the end of the May agenda, the following might be noted:

Upcoming Discussions:

  • Review line of credit policies: June
  • Executive director evaluation discusssion: August
  • Overall critique of fundraising strategies: September

By keeping this running list, everyone knows what is scheduled for future meetings, and will neither forget them nor worry that they will be forgotten by others. The Upcoming Discussions list also serves to keep the board accountable for its plans.

None of these quick improvements will fix major problems, but they will go a surprisingly long way in strengthening a good board's ability to stay on track.

See also in Blue Avocado:

Comments (9)

  • Anonymous

    There is no "example to right" on point #2.

    Apr 26, 2011
  • Anonymous

    I believe the blue box is what that is referring to.

    Apr 27, 2011
  • Great suggestions! Have passed these on to our Board Chair, Nancy Letteri, Children of Vietnam

    Apr 26, 2011
  • Anonymous

    I'd add one thing: send out the minutes or notes from any meeting as soon as possible. That way, what happened in the meeting fresh in everyone's mind, and the notes will be a recap and a reminder, especially for those who are expected to take action. It also means that the notetaker - and whoever needs to approve notes before they go out - still remembers what was going on at the meeting, and isn't trying to reconstruct forgotten discussions. And for those who missed the meeting, hearing soon after about what happened will be of far more use than hearing just before the next meeting.

    That system followed by so many organizations of receiving the minutes from the last board meeting just before the next board meeting means that the "running list" and "upcoming discussions" won't be either running or upcoming, because there won't have been any time to plan for them or follow through.

    Apr 26, 2011
  • Anonymous

    This is a good suggestion. As the volunteer board secretary, I am busy and so is the voluntary chair, so we end of sending out the minutes a week before the next meeting. I will see if sending the minutes out early will help. Although our entire board is voluntary and we have no staff, it has been my experience that the board members don't bother to read the minutes until just before the next meeting, even if they have a job to do. Any suggestions on how to change that?

    Apr 27, 2011
  • If there is no accountability by board members toward those who do not prepare until the last minute (i.e., then these slackers will continue to get by. People respect those things you inspect (or in this case, those things you Expect). Seems like the slackers are running the Board meetings and that needs to change or you need to find another organization. Tom Osina, CAE, IOM Non-Profit Help.com

    May 01, 2011
  • Anonymous

    As a Board secretary, I CAP/BOLD the 'To Do' items in the minutes. "JOHN WILL CONTACT THE COUNTY about the special events permit." We also give each Board member a few green index cards at the meeting, and ask them to write down the things they're accountable for doing. We keep the Green Card List (with date of origin and name assigned) and it's a quick review at the top of each agenda. We don't discuss results at that point, just status "Done, In Progress, Needs Reassigned or No Longer Needed."

    May 11, 2011
  • Anonymous

    This is excellent! I sent it on to my network's EDs and board members and I got good feedback. Also, I had a dream last night of teaching it at a workshop--OMG, I'm such a board nerd!!

    May 13, 2011
  • Anonymous

    I recommend the to-do list be kept as yellow highlighted items inside the minutes of the meeting, within each each section of agenda areas. The Secretary / staff then compiles the list of highlighted items atop next Agenda per this great article. This places more accountability into the records of the org as you can see all the things people were tasked with in the minutes.

    Oct 28, 2011

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