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From Monthly “Chats” to Productive Board Meetings at the Columbia Gorge Discovery Center

October 22, 2018


Written by: Carolyn Purcell, Executive Director, Columbia Gorge Discovery Center

I am blessed to have a board president whose career in the Forest Service honed his skills as a well-seasoned administrator.  Under his management, board meetings have moved from a two and a half hour “chat” once a month, to a focused and productive 45-minute meeting.  The difference is astounding.

Unlike most non-profit boards, our organization has 23 board members.  Though it is unusual for all of them to make all the monthly meetings, there is usually a turnout of 15 to 18 people.  The agenda, minutes from the previous meeting, financial statements, and a written directors report are all distributed via email (and snail mail for a few less tech savvy) about 5 days in advance of the meeting.  But even with this meeting plan, the key is how the meeting is run.

The board chair is responsible for keeping everyone focused and turning everyone back to the matter at hand when the conversation begins to veer towards a rabbit hole.  He is masterful in identifying side issues and assigning subcommittee work to be addressed outside of the monthly meeting.  This subcommittee work can often be accomplished via email in between meetings, with a report brought back to the full board at the next monthly meeting.

If you read this and think, “well of course,” then you probably have not experienced the droning two and half hour board meeting where little is accomplished.  I have learned so much from seeing how to run a meeting efficiently and encourage others to find their own master of the board meeting. It is a true talent that will save time and help you get back to the meaningful work of meeting your mission.

Here are an additional seven tips for running an effective nonprofit board meetings.

Mark your calendar for the 2019 Heritage Summit “The Culture of Board Engagement” that will take place in Medford April 25-26, 2019. 



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