Over coffee with a friend who recently retired as a nonprofit board president, I learned how she kept board meetings lively and got her directors engaged right from the opening gavel. I had not served on this board so I was interested to learn her secret. Before she slid into the president’s chair, she noticed most meetings began with little energy and focus, and her newest directors usually let the older ones lead the discussions and set the tone in decision-making. She knew this was not healthy and decided something had to be done.

She decided to start out each board meeting with what she called a “captivating question”. She wanted to get everyone’s juices flowing so it was usually controversial, open-ended, and meant to drive passions. You could only speak to a director sitting next to you so there was little chance any one person could take over the meeting and it allowed everyone to have his/her say. She usually limited this to 10-15 minutes  but that was sufficient to get newer directors to talking and everyone focused on the organization. Would this work for your board meetings?

What if you took 10 minutes at the beginning of your next board meeting and asked everyone questions like:

  • If we were starting up our organization today brand new, what would it look like? Would we recreate what we have now, or create something that looks different?
  • Let’s say it is 2016 and we just came off the most successful year we ever had from programming, fund development and organizational standpoints. What 2-3 key steps or decisions did the board make resulting in these great results?
  • If we could do one thing right now that would improve our organization (whether internally or externally in our service delivery) and neither time nor money was an issue, what would that be?

Give it a try and let know what happens. I’d be interested to hear from you. Give me a call…

For more thoughts about running productive board meetings, see this article, and this one, too.