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Small Steps for Effective Board Meetings

Board meetings are one of the most important events for a nonprofit. A lot is expected of organizations during this time-- successfully reporting out last quarter’s progresses, challenges, and expectations for the future are no easy task. A lot rides on the success of a board meeting, and that means stress levels are high for all parties involved.

While there are many ways for a nonprofit to improve upon the process of preparing for board meetings, here, I will focus on the smaller, often overlooked but vitally important details. These factors are often forgotten in the hustle and bustle of preparing for the board meeting, but attention to these details can significantly decrease problems during the actual event:

1. Test all technology

Nothing is more frustrating than a teleconference system, Web-Ex presentation, or other type of technology failing on you. Technology malfunctions disrupt the flow of the meeting, fluster the presenter, and make your staff look less professional. Test your technology at least twice before the meeting –one of those times should be on the same day of the event, if possible. The more you practice, the more you can work out kinks beforehand, such as figuring out what remote you’ll need to use—and noting which remote button always gets stuck!

2. …and have a backup plan for technology.

Even with all that testing, technology is unpredictable. I once tried calling into a conference, only to have the entire conferencing system break down because it was overcrowded! This was a problem with the teleconferencing company, not my organization. However, if something like this happens, you’ll need to have a back-up plan. Send out all slides and handouts to your team before meetings. Have a backup conference line that you can use if your first one fails. The key is to have a Plan B for as many situations as possible. That way, you’re ready for the worst.

3. Print everything early

Besides the television remote (why do I need three remotes to turn on my DVD player, again?), my least favorite piece of technology is the printer. Printers will inevitably crash, get stuck, need more paper, need more toner, or need a mental health day just when you need to print something important. For your board meeting, be sure to print as many documents as you can early.

4. Add visuals to your space

Why not add a few visuals to your conference space for the meeting? These can be larger graphics that you’ll refer to later in the presentation, some pictures taken at a local nonprofit event, or even just your logo on larger paper. To more easily keep the attention of board members, you could even print a couple of visuals (early, of course!) and stick them onto the walls with some tape.

5. Include breaks… preferably with coffee

Even the most dedicated board member will lose focus after four hours of conversation. Try to schedule a break at least once every two hours – even if it’s just for everyone to use the restroom. For bonus points, provide some kind of coffee or snack.


Anisha Singh Anisha Singh


Anisha Singh is a business analyst at GuideStar. She splits her time between the Strategy Team, Finance Team, and Office of the President/CEO. Anisha is a graduate from Johns Hopkins University, where she majored in International Studies and Economics. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, finding the best restaurants in DC, and annoying her brother with her philanthropy chatter. You can reach Anisha at

Topics: Communications