Tips for the Board Chair: Preparing for the Board Meeting

Being a nonprofit board chair can be exciting, challenging and frustrating. It is a complex role that requires strong leadership, tact, charisma, discretion and the art of persuasion.

An important part of the chair’s role is the preparation of the board meeting agenda; this is typically is done in consultation with the executive director. Developing the board agenda includes Identifying the issues that require a vote or discussion and creating or gathering information that keeps the board updated on the activities of the staff and committees.

Boards tend to have limited time and short attention spans. With that in mind I recommend board materials be presented in simple and succinct language with key issues highlighted. If there is an issue that requires the board to consider various options- the options should be clearly identified and stated. Thoughtful preparation will allow the board to effectively deliberate and make timely and informed decisions.

If the board does not have the information they need for an important decision it will often delay the decision until the next board meeting.  Sometimes information can be sent and a vote taken by e-mail – while this can keep things moving forward it limits the open debate that enables the board to reach consensus and develop strategic decisions.

As you prepare for board meetings consider:

  • What are the issues that require a vote or direction from the board?
  • What information needs to be gathered or prepared so the board can make informed decisions?
  • How much time is needed at the meeting to allow for real deliberation of an important issue?
  • Should any board members be asked to lead or assist with certain board discussions?
  • Do any of the agenda items impact existing policies or might lead to the development of a new policy?