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Virtual Board Meetings Untangled


Effective board meetings are more critical than ever in this time of crisis and uncertainty.  Yet they get quickly tangled in this era of virtual communication.

We recently developed a dynamic training to address this called Improving Board Member Engagement: The CEO’s Playbook to Productive Online Meetings  for the nationally recognized Nonprofit Learning Lab.

Shared with dozens of Executive Directors and CEOs over the last two months, their feedback has made the training better and better.   I want to share what we learned and give you the opportunity access it as well.

Learning from Experts

When it comes to board engagement I like learning from experts.  Richard Gottlieb was the Executive Director Senior Services of Forsyth County for 35 years.  He became an expert in board engagement – more than anyone I have ever met.

His case study is inspiring and his thinking has contributed significantly to how we work with clients.  We condensed his experience into a short e-book you can download called Rewriting the Rules: How Nonprofit CEOs can achieve Extraordinary Community involvement and impact supported by outstanding Fundraising Results.

Back to Basics: 

Given our reality has shifted so much in 2020, it can be valuable to go back to the basics of effective communication.

What is communication at its heart?

It’s an exchange.   In its highest form, knowledge is shared and received by another, where it is transformed within the receiver, further developed and re-shared in a way that elevates and enhances knowledge for both.

When I have communication experiences like this, I want don’t want these conversations to end.

You may have experienced this in the early days of a courtship, or creating your organization or in your last successful collaborative project.  There is a sense you are creating something bigger than the individuals involved!

Real communication is dynamic.

If an Executive Director stands in front of a group (or zooms) and “reports out” on the ED report that was sent earlier about past events – the chances of this kind of genuine exchange are almost zilch, right?

Yet, this is what many Executive Directors do every month in board meetings.  They talk AT their board.

Do a check.  What percent of the time are you talking in board meetings?  If it is anywhere near 50% or more, there is likely little exchange happening. ☹

This is easy to see and hard to stop.   If you recognize you want to improve your own  communication skills, download this powerful e-book called 10 Steps to Improved Communication at Work

There is a cheat sheet at the end you can pin on your wall to help you prepare quickly for critical conversations and speaking roles.

Imagine a Different Future:

Are you asking your board strategic questions?

Are you setting up all of your interactions to draw out their strategic best thinking?  (Yes, this is YOUR job.)

Richard (from the case study) shows us this can result in:

  • A board that removes the obstacles to your organization meeting its vision and mission.  A board that connects you to resources and people your team could never reach alone.
  • Board members are walking billboards for the organization and its strongest advocates.
  • Members who are instrumental in raising millions of dollars in unrestricted funds annually.

There is a lot more to say about this and we go into more detail in the training.  Getting clear about the kind of board you actually want to develop is a critical first step.

Making the MOST of Online Meetings

Consider your board meeting is theater.   As Executive Director or CEO, you are the producer!

For online meetings in particular, there are 5 key things to consider:

  1. Does your platform meet the needs of the meeting? Things to consider:  access issues, security, the need to support for new users, support for creative ways to present information.
  2. What are the “Rules of the Road”?

This virtual world is a GREAT opportunity for the CEO and board members to stop and more intentionally decide how to operate in an online environment.

Rules of the Road can include things like:

  • agendas prepared ahead of time and sent out a week in advance,
  • the nature of what you discuss in a board meeting, e.g. very limited reporting out, making decisions, solving problems, grappling with strategic questions.
  • At least 4 to 5 other considerations

These things apply to in person meetings too, but now is a great opportunity to become more intentional.

  1. Who has what role during the meeting?  Does the chair have to facilitate the meeting? (NO!)  In the training we consider at least five different roles to consider each member taking on that are unique to online environments.  This is a GREAT opportunity to increase board member engagement.
  1. Carefully pick your collaboration tools. Because people are not in the same room together, these tools help you pick up on ques from members much more quickly, that can be otherwise challenging  to gauge online.
  1. How can you sequence events during the meeting to unleash the creative strategic parts of board members brains? This might be your most important job as CEO.

Next Steps:

This is the tip of the of the iceberg.  If you would like to dig deeper, we are making the recorded video training available to you for half the price that others paid to attend it.

For those who participate in the training, I make a special offer at the end, where we can connect online in person.

I can help you see exactly what are the next steps for your unique circumstances that will result in better on line meetings, higher board engagement and more successful fundraising.

Click here to gain your access.  I look forward to connecting.

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