Nonprofit Board Meeting Worst Practices

Nonprofit Board Meeting Worst Practices

The internet is filled with “Best Practices” lists, but what about the things you should avoid? This post is the first in my new “Worst Practice” series. The goal is to slightly tweak the framing of the advice so you can clearly see what not to do.

Below is a list of things to avoid at nonprofit board meetings.

  • Not providing the board with a clear written agenda at least a few days in advance

  • Regularly not starting or ending on time

  • Failing to build in time for breaks, unplanned discussions, or “new business”

  • Using executive session at most or all of your meetings to meet in secrecy without the executive director. Executive session should not be commonplace. It should be saved for performance issues or compensation conversations.

  • Allowing dysfunctional (personal/emotional) conflict to play out during meetings

  • Not allowing functional conflict (spirited and intelligent disagreement about material issues) to play out in a healthy way

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  • Poor facilitation. If your chair is facilitating the meeting, he or she may not be able to fully participate in conversations. Consider rotating facilitation or bringing in a professional facilitator if meetings aren’t moving smoothly or efficiently. 

  • Allowing excessive conversation on topics that should be referred to committee

  • Failing to provide adequate time for committees to report their updates so the board is aware of all board activities 

  • Forgetting to provide a comfortable space and refreshments for your board

  • Failing to provide a way for board members to join remotely and feel included

  • Forgetting to use board meetings as an opportunity to build rapport and get to know each other as individuals (before, during, and after the meeting) 

  • Allowing any one personality to dominate the meeting procedurally or verbally

  • Not paying attention to whether women, people of color, or young people are being interrupted, disrespected, or treated negatively at all. Notice patterns.

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