Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Board Governance – How to run an effective Board meeting

Tuesday, August 23, 2011
I would hope by now your organization has completed its budget for the next fiscal year, and the budget has been approved by the Board of Directors (see May 2011 blog, “It’s Budget Time!”). Now it is time to get ready for the first Board meeting of the year. In my first blog (January 2010, “How Effective is Your Board of Directors?”), I addressed Board governance and, among other things, described the elements of an effective Board meeting as follows:

• Meet regularly

• Give notice of meetings

• Provide an agenda

• Begin meetings on time

• Invite staff and outsiders when appropriate

• Know the decision making methods

I currently serve on the Board of a nonprofit organization. We have six board meetings a year. Our Executive Director makes it a practice to send the Board members the list of Board meetings for the year before the first meeting of the year, which gives each of us notice of the regularly scheduled meetings. Each meeting has an agenda (which is sent to Board members with attachments prior to each meeting).

So what special items are on our agenda for the first meeting?

• We review and affirm our mission statement and our roles and responsibilities as Board members, by signing the Board Member Pledge

• We review our Conflict of Interest policy and complete the annual statement

• We begin our annual Board Appeal, striving to achieve 100% Board giving

• Since our audit is usually completed by our first Board meeting, we invite the auditor to review the draft of the audited financial statements and the federal form 990

These standing agenda items for our first meeting help set the stage (and tone) for the fiscal year. It gives new and existing Board members consistent notice of their fiduciary responsibilities as Board members, and opens the door for questions and dialogue around policies, procedures and best practices.

Does your Board meet on a regular basis? Is your Board given sufficient notice of the meeting(s)? Is there a proper agenda, and is that agenda followed? Help your organization set a positive tone for the upcoming fiscal year. If you need assistance running effective Board meetings, contact Elko & Associates Ltd. We would be happy to offer some tips and best practices!

As I mentioned in my first blog, the Board has the legal duty and authority to set policies and monitor compliance with those policies. The new form 990, which most nonprofits are now required to file (final phase in year was 2010), asks whether your organization has certain policies. In June 2010, I discussed conflicts of interest and creating a Conflict of Interest policy (“Does Your Organization Have a Written Conflict of Interest Policy?”). Next month we’ll begin discussing other governance policies (if no other pressing matter surfaces to discuss). Stay tuned!


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