By Amber Alarid, JVA Consulting
On February 14, 2012, JVA’s Executive Director Breakfast Club tackled all things organization. Guest speaker Julie Gutman, founder of Simplify Me, LLC joined JVA and our group of nonprofit executive directors to talk about personal organization (desks, email, files and more), while JVA’s own Ashley Kasprzak led a discussion about organizing your nonprofit at the board level.
Among the biggest concerns for EDs participating in the breakfast club was meetings. Many wanted to know how to make meetings as effective as possible. Kasprzak suggested that tools like Board Source can help board members prepare for meetings and stay on time. Using a system like Board Source, which allows you to send documents to attendees ahead of time, sets the standard that all participants should be well versed in that meeting’s topics and prepared to either raise questions or vote in a swift manner. This is also a good idea for staff meetings where topics require further discussion or voting. Uploading documents to a server or Google, or even just emailing them ahead of time prevents using meeting time to read and mull over materials. Pose questions in the documents (serious or fun) to ensure that attendees are reading the materials.
In our February Executive Director Academy (EDA), Alyssa Kopf, CEO of Community Shares of Colorado, suggested sending board members an email before the meeting that includes the following: context for the meeting (e.g., “we will be voting on X matter, please review the minutes from X date if you need more info”) and goals (e.g., “to make progress we need to have accomplished X and X goals by the end of the meeting”).
If time is a concern during your meetings, whether you have too much or not enough, come up with creative solutions that fit your organization’s needs. Some suggestions made during ED Breakfast Club were to set a timer, or assign someone to make sure the meeting sticks to the agenda. Other creative solutions from our executive directors include rotating the responsibility of facilitating meetings so each team member develops valuable leadership skills and talking to your team about a schedule for meetings that eliminates redundancy but allows for dedicated time when board or staff members share updates, successes and/or struggles.
Following up after meetings is a great reminder and motivator for people to follow through with commitments made during the meeting, but adding another email to each person’s inbox can be overwhelming. According to Gutman, tools like Action Method Online, used here at JVA, can cut back on the email clutter. Action Method Online stores action items in a system that can be organized by project and date and automatically updates colleagues on the status of an action.
Whatever method of meeting organization you choose, make sure it fits the culture of your nonprofit and that your board and staff are responding to it well. Keeping meeting attendees engaged is the ultimate goal, so make sure they are responding to the organizational changes you make and adjust your strategy as needed.