Better non-profit board meetings

Your non-profit is required to hold regular Board meetings. Here’s your go-to guide if you don’t know where to start.

To keep your non-profit running smoothly, you’ll need the input from your Board of Directors. This is the group of people from diverse backgrounds that you have selected to oversee the bigger picture of your non-profit. They shouldn’t, however, handle managerial responsibilities. It’s important to draw a line between what the Board will handle and what your staff will do, even if some of your staff is on the Board. Let’s move on to meetings.


You set up the frequency of Board meetings in your non-profit bylaws, but you should have a nice balance of meetings, no less than three times a year. You may choose to hold quarterly meetings, or if your non-profit needs more overseeing, meetings every month.

Try to stick to a set amount of time for the meeting, such as two hours.


The secret to a successful meeting of any type is having an agenda in advance. Ask Board members to email you any issues they’d like to discuss at the next meeting, then set up an agenda based on what needs to be covered. Send this to members about two weeks before the meeting, then the day before. Here’s an example of an agenda:

8:00-8:10 Meeting commences with recap of last meeting

8:10-8:30 Discuss fundraising ideas for Spring

8:30-8:45 Elect head of Fundraising Committee

8:45-9:00 Review budget

9:00-9:10 Break

9:10-9:30 Review applications for Treasurer position

9:30-9:45 Discuss opening second location

9:45-10:00 Outstanding issues

Do your best to stick to this agenda. Anything that doesn’t fit into the allotted time can be discussed via email or phone.


Your non-profit Board should have an elected secretary who will be responsible for recording minutes for each meeting. These can be as formal as using Robert’s Rules of Order to dictate format, or as casual as listing bullet points with highlights from the meeting.

Compile the minutes into a document and save it for future reference, and also email it to all Board members once the meeting is over. If there are action items required of any members, make sure to mark them on the calendar to follow up on.


There will come a time when your Board can’t come to an agreement on a decision. It’s important to have a plan in place should this occur. You can determine whether decisions must all be unanimous or whether a majority can make the final decision. Having an uneven number of Board members makes it easy to choose a majority vote.


It may be difficult to gather all Board members together for each meeting. You have the option to have some members attend via phone or Skype, but keep in mind that in-person meetings tend to be more productive. In your Board member application, stipulate any repercussions for absences from meetings, and do your best to schedule meetings when all members are available.

Keeping the Goal in Mind

It’s important to remember that the purpose of the Board of Directors is to act in the best interest of the non-profit it represents. That means that each and every Board member should have goals that align with the non-profit, and truly want to serve it and help it succeed.

If at any point you feel like a Board member isn’t living up to his requirements, hold a meeting with him privately to ensure that he is still interested in serving. If he is not, find a replacement member and phase out his term.

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