As the date for the board meeting approaches and the “to do” list grows by the minute, it’s easy to get caught in a panic. Just when you thought you had things under control, you find that one committee has not turned in its report, the location for the meeting needs to be changed, and six board members have still not RSVP’d. How will everything be ready in time for the board meeting?
Some things will always be out of your control. Other issues will surface at the last minute that will send you scrambling for a fix. Aim to be ready for your board meetings by following these five simple steps.
1) Establish a Calendar of Activities
Set dates for the strategic planning meeting, board elections, and other annual events a year ahead of time. You can always move a date out if you need to later.
2) Establish a Schedule of Board and Committee meetings a year in advance
Again, these dates can be moved if something comes up. Board and committee meetings are sure to be held regularly when board members have the dates presented to them at every board meeting.
3) Schedule the Management Meetings
Put the management meetings on the calendar two weeks before the regular board meeting.
4) Designate a Space for Gathering Board Materials
You will be gathering materials for the board meeting weeks in advance. Find a space that will hold all binders, documents, and other materials for the board meeting and don’t use that space for anything else. Give yourself room to collate and organize stacks of documents and reports. Keep a copy of the bylaws and shareholder agreements in that space, so you can take a copy of them to every meeting.
Note-Shareholder agreements may need to be approved by the board at specific intervals. These are priority agenda items that should not be missed. The CEO, executive director, CFO, board secretary, and the board chair should maintain a list of the required shareholder agreements. Each of them should take responsibility for making sure they are added to the agenda and approved by the board in a timely manner.
5) Set Electronic Reminders or Use Electronic Organizer Apps
Use your Outlook calendar of another calendar to keep you on task for meeting your own deadlines. This way you only need to take care of the task on the reminder, rather than review everything. Here are some of the tasks that need reminders:
- Set a reminder to start planning the next board meeting about three weeks before the meeting. If your board meets monthly, you will be planning the next meeting shortly after the last meeting ends.
- Set a reminder to send out a deadline to ask for reports or other documents related to the agenda. This is one of the things that you can do early.
- Set a reminder to set the agenda a few weeks before the meeting.
- Set a reminder to make copies of the prior meeting’s minutes shortly after the last meeting.
- Set a reminder to plan for the management meeting three weeks prior to the board meeting.
The week before the board meeting is the busiest week. Carve out some time in your work schedule to take care of board duties so that you are not rushing. Here are some of the things that you will need to include on the reminder that you set for yourself the week before the board meeting:
- Send out a packet to all board members that includes a draft of the agenda, prior board meeting minutes, schedule of all meeting dates for the coming 12 months, and RSVP’s. Include items that are lagging such as overdue committee reports, follow ups on assigned tasks from the prior meeting. Give them a firm deadline for items to be included on the agenda and for reports or other documents to be copied and distributed prior to the meeting.
- Confirm that the meeting location will be free and accessible on the date and time of the meeting.
- Check on any audio or video equipment that will be needed for the meeting and arrange to have it ready and at the meeting site on meeting day.
- Prepare a legal notice for the meeting, if required, and make sure that it is posted in accordance with the bylaws.
- Check with the legal department to see if any agenda items or other legal matters need to be reviewed.
- Five days before the board meeting, finalize the agenda and send the final draft to the board chair and executive director for approval.
- Prepare the binders by inserting all documents, including the approved agenda, and send out to all board members.
There’s no getting around the fact that there are many duties that need to be performed by the board secretary to make sure the board meetings goes off without a hitch. The key to tackling them all successfully is to keep regular schedules on a calendar, set reminders, and allow extra time in your schedule to wrap up all of the loose ends the week before the board meeting. Being highly organized leaves you room to tend to those unexpected issues that arise at the last minute.