The people on the board are often individuals responsible for holding the organization to account, ensuring regulatory compliance, overseeing the books, and so on.
At the end of a board meeting, the members of the board will have typically discussed all of the issues raised in the meeting. Decisions will also have already been made on them or will be done so before the next meeting.
What is the Purpose of a Board Meeting?
Every organization has important events occurring regularly, whether those are meetings with external clients, applying for grants from external entities, shifting premises, opening a new branch, or hiring new senior staff.
A board meeting is an appropriate place for these important issues to be discussed.
In addition to this, the board has a crucial role as the overseeing body of the organization.
Stakeholders want to see that the organization is performing well and meeting its targets and mission statements, and the board provides an independent body to ensure that this is the case.
Audits of progress and of finances are both topics that are also often covered at a board meeting.
Finally, board meetings are frequently required by law to ensure that a business is operating in an appropriate manner.
What Roles do Attendees of a Board Meeting Fill?
Board meetings most often have people with multiple roles.
All board members are responsible for contributing to the discussion on key issues, providing relevant insight and critique to the company, and voting on motions.
Executive Director or CEO
The executive director or CEO is a member of the organization itself, but also a member of the board.
They are key to making sure that the board is well-equipped to make decisions about the present issues and opportunities that confront the organization, as well as provide a bridge between the board and the organization’s executive team.
The board secretary is responsible for helping the board chair and executive director prepare the agenda for each board meeting.
They also take the minutes for each meeting, as well as organize the time and venue. The secretary also sometimes prepares board papers.
The board chair is responsible for running the meeting, keeping the discussion relevant to the planned agenda, and liaising with the executive director to ensure that the decisions being made are relevant to the organization.
They are the key contact point on the board for members of the organization’s executive team and are also responsible for helping the company act in the best interests of its shareholders.
How do you Run an Effective Board Meeting?
An effective board meeting has a few key characteristics.
Unlike other meetings where the invite list can be chosen so that only those who absolutely need to be there are present, board meetings must invite all members of the board to attend.
This means time is of the essence, and so the board meeting must be both effective and efficient.
Send a Notice in advance
First, a time to meet must be arranged.
As there are many people that need to be invited, the process of choosing a time and giving prior notice of the meeting has to start early to ensure that everyone can attend.
The laws governing the board’s operations may set a specific minimum notice period that must be given before a meeting is set.
Further, in order to make any decisions, a board must meet a ‘quorum’ for the meeting. This just means that there has to be a sufficient number of board members present. Quorum varies based on the board’s own guidelines but is almost always more than half of all board members.
Create an Agenda
If an agenda is important for a regular meeting, it is doubly so for a board meeting due to a large number of people present!
Without an agenda, it is easy to get lost in minor details or irrelevant discussions.
The board meeting agenda should be kept as concise and direct as possible to minimize unnecessary distractions and maximize useful time expenditure.
Facilitate the Discussion and Decision-Making
Once the meeting begins, the board must discuss the topics brought up on the agenda and make any pertinent decisions.
The board chair takes an active hand in facilitating this discussion and should encourage direct participation from various group members.
In order to facilitate discussion, it is often useful to provide board members with board papers.
These are reasonably concise memoranda on the key topics to be discussed in the meeting, with relevant information provided by those in the organization directly involved.
When these are provided, the board is able to make better-informed decisions and overall achieve a more beneficial outcome for the organization.
Use a Consensus Agenda
Before the meeting wraps up, any tasks to be completed by board members before the next meeting should be clearly communicated to those involved to ensure prompt follow-up.
Of course, board meetings often have many decisions to be made, and several of these are often trivial (such as approving the previous meeting’s minutes, reviewing the agenda, and so on).
In order to maximize time spent on the main body of the meeting, a consensus agenda can be used to pass all of these decisions in one motion.
This means multiple small decisions can be made with only one motion, reducing the amount of time needed to do so.
What are Common Agenda Points/Topics of a Board Meeting?
The typical agenda points/topics of a board meeting can be split into three broad categories:
1. Board Operations
Although the board is primarily concerned with assisting the organization it is tied to, it is an independent body and must therefore also concern itself with how its meetings are run.
Board operations include setting new meeting times, finding meeting venues, and appointing new members (or preparing to do so).
Although these can seem like small and trivial decisions, a board cannot function without a solid foundation of schedule and certainty- and they must of course have sufficient board members to operate!
2. Organization Operations
This is what comprises many of the large decisions that the board will make in a typical meeting.
The board may make decisions on whether to apply for grants or other funding, whether to approve major changes to the organization (such as the expansion of premises or the creation of a new branch) or assist in appointing new senior members of the organization.
In particular, the organization’s finances are often examined at each board meeting to ensure that they are in order.
The board is also responsible to the shareholders of the organization and is there in part to provide criticism and critique to the organization where it feels that goals and responsibilities are not being met.
The board meeting is a chance for concerns to be raised, and for these to be discussed with the executive director. The board meeting is also a forum for audits to be organized or reported on.
Using Meeting Minutes in a Board Meeting
Meeting Minutes (or just Minutes) are a record of what happens in the meeting, including what actions are taken and what decisions are made.
They are crucial to the operations of the board, and aid in the transparency of the board’s processes.
They are generally brief bullet-point style records of the meeting, focusing on concrete actions taken rather than all of the discussion that took place.
Minutes should serve as a comprehensive summary of the meeting so as to facilitate good record-keeping!