After attending nonprofit board meetings for the last 30 years with organizations ranging from brand new 501c3’s to larger established ones, it surprises me to say that the best board meeting I ever attended was my first board meeting ever.

It was a cold Saturday in January. The organization was fairly new, but they still sprang for good coffee and breakfast food. The meeting began with a 15-minute social time, where it was so easy to just chat casually with the dozen or so other board members, of which three others were brand new with me.

Right after the brief social time there was a solid round of self introductions; but instead of just saying where we were from or what our occupations were, we were asked to say why the mission of the charity was important to us and why we personally decided to serve rather than just support the organization.

The rest of the meeting was so simple, yet so brilliant, that one can easily see why they do this at the first board meeting of every year. This is especially nice since there are always brand new board members attending the first meeting.

The current board chairman, with the help of the past board chairman and the CEO, outlined each of the key elements of the strategic plan. This allowed all of us to ask questions about each aspect of the plan. Perhaps even more special was the discussion around each element on whether that element needed to be updated this year.

Many of the questions clarified so many aspects of the strategic plan.

All of the above would have rated this kickoff board meeting as one of the better ones. However, what elevated this meeting to being the very best was a magic wrinkle every board chairman can and should use!

This wrinkle was…

Asking Who is Responsible for Each Element of the Strategic Plan

Yes, the simple exercise that made all the difference was just asking whether the responsible party of each key portion of the strategic plan was:

  • The Board
  • The Staff
  • Both

For every single element this question ignited a wonderful discussion and literally left no doubt who was responsible. In most cases, action steps and assignments were already in place before the meeting adjourned with people excited to jump in and make them a reality!

I am sure many of you nodding your head with a yes vote to the above scenario. Do you think this exercise is one that will work for most boards? Let me know in the comments below!

Nonprofit Sustainability

Jay Love

Jay Love

Co-Founder & Chief Relationship Officer at Bloomerang
A 30+ veteran of the nonprofit software industry, Jay Love co-founded Bloomerang in 2012. Prior to Bloomerang, he was the CEO and Co-Founder of eTapestry for 11 years, which at the time was the leading SaaS technology company serving the charity sector. Jay and his team grew the company to more than 10,000 nonprofit clients, charting a decade of record growth. Prior to starting eTapestry, Jay served 14 years as President and CEO of Master Software Corporation. MSC provided a widely used family of database products for the non-profit sector called Fund-Master. He currently serves on the board of the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University and is the past AFP Ethics Committee Chairman. Jay is also the author of Stay Together: How to Encourage a Lifetime of Donor Loyalty.
Jay Love