Three Practices for More Effective & Efficient Board Meetings

I am often asked how a board can be more efficient and effective.  This is an important topic for busy volunteer board members!  

The first step to greater efficiency is creating an annual board work plan or board schedule (click here to download MHS’ sample annual board work plan).  This can be a very simple document that maps out your board meetings for the year and designates the duties and responsibilities required at each meeting. 

Items that are usually included on a work plan include:

  • Annual audit presentation
  • Budget approval
  • Annual conflict of interest statement
  • Corporate compliance statement
  • CEO assessment & compensation review
  • Board assessment (every 2 to 3 years)
  • Board member appointments/reappointments
  • Board retreat
  • Board education
  • Strategic plan review
  • Bylaws review (every 3-5 years) 

An annual board work plan, once developed, can easily be mapped out for 2-3 years ahead.  With a meeting planning structure in place, the board chair does not need to remember the most important agenda items for each meeting and what the board needs to accomplish.  Planning and organizing allows forward-thinking and ensures sufficient time at each meeting to accomplish the responsibilities of the board.

Another effective practice for boards to consider is setting an agenda that provides a timeline for the meeting and specifies the expectations and goals for the meeting.  Many boards use a consent agenda that includes staff reports and other documents to be read ahead of the meeting. Limited meeting time is allotted to answer questions or gain clarification on these reports and documents. Time allocated for fiduciary responsibilities is as important as time for open and generative discussion. 

At the end of the board meeting, seeking feedback on the meeting is important.  An evaluation can be done verbally during the executive session or electronically and reviewed by the governance committee for follow-up (click here to download MHS’ meeting evaluation tool). Asking board members to consider the effectiveness of the meeting is an excellent way to identify opportunities and make improvements.

In our busy world, we are often looking at how we can create more time in our day or find better ways of doing our work.  With that in mind, use these tips and tools to guide your governance work and watch them make a difference in your board’s time, effectiveness and planning. 

Karen Lehman,
President/CEO, MHS


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