As the chair of a mission-driven organization board, by mastering the art of running board meetings, you empower your fellow board members to contribute meaningfully, amplify the organization’s impact, and stay true to your shared mission. It’s all about propelling the board toward greater success in making a positive difference in the world.
An effective chairperson should have enough familiarity with parliamentary procedure (or Robert’s Rules of Order) to demonstrate how to run a board meeting to the other board members. Well-run board meetings also allow board members to gain the experience and expertise to run a board meeting or fill the role of the board chair in due time.
While the agendas for board meetings for mission-driven organizations vary a bit based on what the board wants to accomplish, board meetings typically follow the same general format. To that end, we’ll go over the importance of the board chair’s role and outline the steps for how to run a volunteer board meeting.
The Importance of the Board Chairperson’s Role
The role of the board chair is a specific role that carries additional leadership duties and responsibilities. One of the responsibilities of a chairperson is to facilitate discussion among the board members and allow each board member to speak.
An effective chair gives the opposing sides time to present their arguments and invites the participation of other members. The chair does not typically enter into discussion; rather, they facilitate discussion among the other members. The chair may assist members in wording motions upon the request of the moving member.
Typically, the chair of a volunteer board does not vote. However, there are two instances when the chair votes: when their vote would affect the outcome, or when the vote is by ballot. Beyond that, the primary role of the board chair is to conduct an orderly meeting according to parliamentary protocol.
Steps in Running a Board Meeting
Effective volunteer board meetings begin with a well-planned agenda, as the agenda informs all board members on what the group needs to accomplish in the allotted timeframe.
An agenda template in your board management system makes easy work of creating a fluid board meeting agenda that the chairperson, board secretary, and executive director can contribute to between meetings.
A board agenda has a structure with specific steps that allow the chairperson to open the meeting on time, ensure there is a quorum before voting takes place, and cover all necessary business before the meeting ends at the established time.
The following steps to running a board meeting are:
- Recognizing a quorum
- Calling the meeting to order
- Approving the agenda and minutes
- Allowing for communication and reports
- Addressing old/new/other business
- Closing the meeting
Volunteer board meetings should start on a positive note to set the tone for a productive meeting. Generally, the chairperson welcomes the attendees before getting to the first order of business, which is recognizing a quorum. Below we will cover how to recognize whether a quorum exists, and the other steps in how to run a board meeting for a mission-driven organization.
1. Recognizing a Quorum
In understanding how to run a board meeting, the first order of business is for the chair to determine if a quorum is present. The quorum is defined in the organization’s charter or by-laws. If the quorum is not specifically defined, a simple majority rules.
If a quorum doesn’t exist, the boar chairperson may continue the meeting, but voting may not take place.
2. Calling the Meeting to Order
The next order of business is for the chairperson to call the meeting to order by making a simple statement such as, “This meeting is called to order.” The chair then addresses any items of personal or perfunctory nature, such as welcoming new members and visitors or thanking retiring members.
3. Approving the Agenda and Minutes
Following personal items, the chair moves to the agenda items. The chair will ask the members to approve the agenda. When a member requests additions, amendments, or deletions of the agenda, the amended agenda may be approved without a vote.
We created this Robert’s Rules of Order Agenda Template to make your meeting preparations a breeze for volunteer boards.
Running a successful volunteer board meeting means taking care of past meeting items first. Before any official business can be conducted, the board must approve the minutes of the prior meeting. There are a couple of ways to do this — either by asking the secretary to read the minutes of the prior meeting, or by sending the minutes to members before the meeting.
The next step is for the chair to ask the members if there are any corrections to the minutes. If there are no corrections, the chair announces that the minutes are approved as written.
If a board member proposes an amendment to the minutes, the chair asks the other members to consider the amendment and ask if they agree with it. The chairperson can approve the amendment without taking a formal vote.
When a board member disputes an amendment, the chairperson may ask for a vote on whether the amendment should be adopted. Once the members have accepted the minutes, the chair states, “If there are no further corrections, the minutes stand approved, as corrected.” The secretary would then record any amendments to the current meeting minutes and the chair would sign the minutes to make them official.
For a refresher, check out our previous post on how to take minutes at a board meeting.
4. Communication and Reports
The next step in the process of how to run a board meeting is to hear reports from the executive director and any standing or special committees. If a committee wants to make a recommendation, the reporting member moves to adopt it. Otherwise, the board secretary files the report with no action.
The board treasurer should read the financial reports to keep members current; however, the board doesn’t need to take action on them unless it is an audited report. The board chairperson should always take a vote on the annual audited financial report.
5. Old/New/Other Business
Once the reports have been addressed, the board chairperson addresses old, new, and other items of business in consecutive order. This is the meat and bones of a mission-driven organization’s work during a board meeting.
The following is a description of old business, new business, and other business.
Old business consists of items the board has previously discussed that are ready for formal approval. If any of the items require additional discussion, the chair asks for approval to move those items to the discussion portion of the meeting. The chairperson decides which agenda items should be voted on and approved, postponed or tabled.
Having settled old business items, the chair announces new business items and allows time for discussion on each item. The chair may ask the members to re-order the items as prudent or necessary.
The chair should invite discussion and facilitate debate, drawing out a full range of opinions. If the discussion is lengthy, the chair may limit the discussion for a certain period. At the end of the discussion, the board may agree to vote, amend, table, postpone or move it to a committee for consideration.
During this part of the meeting, the chair invites members to raise other matters that don’t require discussion, such as announcements. Other business may include items for future discussion so that members will have time to review them before the next meeting.
6. Closing the Meeting
To close the meeting according to Robert’s Rules of Order for Adjournment, the chair thanks the group and declares the meeting adjourned. As a final, and important step, the chair should follow up with the executive director and review any aspects of the meeting that they need to discuss before the secretary writes the formal record of the meeting.
A Board Management Solution Sets the Stage for an Effective Mission-Driven Board Meeting
Poorly chaired board meetings may have negative consequences for a mission-driven organization, so it’s important to avoid pitfalls and keep the meeting running smoothly.
A competent chairperson understands how to run a board meeting properly and prepares ahead of time, so the meeting keeps moving. The chair of a volunteer board also keeps overzealous members in check and addresses distractions.
Productive meetings allow for open discussion while focusing on strategic progress for the benefit of the whole organization.
To learn more about how a BoardEffect board management system can help your mission-driven organization set the stage for an effective board meeting, read our one-pager on how to tame the meeting cycle, take back your time and transform your organization’s governance and leadership.