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Navigating The Transition Back To In-Person Board Meetings

Navigating the Transition Back to In-Person Board Meetings

With the pandemic losing its steam, it’s time to consider when and how to resume nonprofit board meetings safely. Nonprofits are often needed most during times of crisis, so their work must continue regardless of the political, economic, and societal issues happening around the world.

The pandemic has taught nonprofit boards many lessons. Nonprofit boards have learned just how flexible and adaptable they can be when there’s no other option.

It appears that the pandemic is starting to wind down. As things begin to open up and it becomes safer to meet in person, this is a good time for your board to start planning for how to transition back to meeting in person.

Health and safety are on everyone’s mind, and we’ve got some great suggestions for how your board can navigate its way back into the boardroom safely.

Hybrid Meetings: Making a Slow Transition to In-Person Board Meetings

Boards benefit by gathering input from all board members. Fortunately, digital tools made it possible for nonprofit boards and corporate boards alike to meet in virtual boardrooms to alleviate concerns over social distancing. As things begin to normalize, it might be time to consider adding new protocols for board meetings to allow for meeting alternatives like virtual or hybrid meetings to better prepare for the future.

While remote board meetings certainly have their perks, communication is generally better when board members can have discussions face-to-face. Board members also tend to be more attentive when they’re sitting in front of their peers. It’s easier to form and strengthen relationships when meeting in person and that goes a long way towards improving your board’s dynamics.

Chances are good that your boardroom has been sitting empty for a while. Because safety and health concerns are lessening, it doesn’t necessarily mean the entire board needs to head back into your boardroom all at once. Your board may consider the possibility of holding hybrid meetings for a while to ease the transition back to in-person meetings.

A hybrid meeting is where some of your board members gather together in your boardroom while others join meetings virtually. Hybrid meetings are a good option for boards that have small, cramped meeting spaces.

Perhaps half the board could attend in person and the other half could attend remotely using audio or videoconferencing software. You could easily rotate which board members meet in the boardroom. By having fewer members attending physically, it will be easier to maintain social distancing guidelines.

Your board can make the decision to invite all board members back into the boardroom when it’s safe to do so. In the interim, it’s best to remain flexible and be willing to adapt as things improve. Above all, a little grace and patience can go a long way.

Transitioning Safely to Nonprofit Board Meetings in the Boardroom

As you make plans to transition to your next nonprofit board meeting, take some cues from the corporate world. Get up to date on the latest CDC health recommendations, consider individual needs and preferences, assess viable alternatives to meeting indoors, and ensure a sanitary meeting space.

The CDC and your state’s health department offer a wealth of information about the current status of the pandemic in your area. For the time being, your board might consider tasking one of your board members with gathering official health updates on the pandemic and sending updates out to other board members at regular intervals. By distributing timely information about health concerns, it will reduce your board members’ concerns and give everyone a greater comfort level with pursuing board business.

Bear in mind that people hold vast and varied opinions about things like wearing masks and meeting in person. Regardless of how strict or casual your individual board members’ personal guidelines are, it’s important to consider everyone’s feelings about it and take steps to ensure everyone feels safe. Worry about spreading the virus will detract your board members’ attention away from your meeting agenda.

Here are some tips to ensure a safe meeting space:

  • Boost your cleaning protocols or hire a cleaning service to ensure a sanitary boardroom space.
  • Make masks available for those who want to use them.
  • Block off every other chair for social distancing purposes.
  • Place bottles of hand sanitizer on your board table.
  • Allow a little leeway on the stop and start rules for meeting times to give board members the ability to stagger arrival and departure times.
  • Be open to ideas that board members bring forth to help them have a greater comfort level with attending nonprofit board meetings in person.
  • Consider holding your meetings outside if the weather permits.

Overall, your board should strive to let all board members know that while board business is still a priority, their health and safety is also a genuine concern, and you take that seriously.

Future Planning for Nonprofit Board Meeting Alternatives

Hopefully, your board will never have to deal with a crisis like the recent pandemic again. Since no one can predict the future, it’s best to have a plan for board meeting alternatives.

First, get the topic of hosting remote board meetings onto your board agenda and open it up for discussion. Here are some ideas to discuss:

  • What types of circumstances warrant full or partial remote attendance?
  • Who will be responsible for informing board members when the board needs to meet remotely, or it makes sense to allow some members to attend remotely?
  • What digital tools will the board use for audio or video conferencing? Does everyone have equal access to them?
  • How will remote board meetings affect your voting procedures?

Your board management system is a valuable tool for conducting nonprofit board meetings inside and outside of your boardroom. It gives you a way to share your board calendar online, so no one is ever out of the loop regarding your meetings, programs, and activities.

With BoardEffect, you can create your board books completely online and distribute them securely and inexpensively. A board management system enables your board to take meeting minutes online and get them approved quickly. Once approved, unlimited cloud storage ensures your board minutes are secure and accessible by board members. Need to send a message to another board member or send a file to the board securely? A board management system gets the job done. With BoardEffect, you have a comprehensive solution for conducting board business all year long, through good times and bad times.

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