The current pandemic is straining operations for many organizations — especially within the healthcare industry. Your board of directors is navigating your organization through this challenging time but probably faces new challenges with digital operations. What does digital board engagement look like? Can your board members conduct business remotely?
Your board needs optimized operations to keep its agenda and your organization running smoothly. Here are tips to help you ensure your board can fulfill their obligations and lead during this trying time.
Plan Your Virtual Board Meeting
Since your board likely can’t convene in-person, virtual meetings are your only option. While much of the meeting will seem like any other, you should prepare ahead of time to help the meeting run smoothly.
- Develop a clear agenda, just like you would for any board meeting. Without the physical presence, the board’s minds can drift and lose focus on the agenda. Be clear about what should be covered and decided for each agenda item.
- Set up your video call solution. Video adds more nonverbal cues to your virtual meeting, easing some of the transition. Run system tests with other staff members to prepare for pitfalls. Many popular video solutions have set time limits per call, so perform any purchases or upgrades beforehand.
- Assign a tech point person, either a board or staff member, to handle issues. Someone knowledgeable about your system can answer questions about connectivity issues or specific platform functions.
- Pick a time agreeable with as many board members as possible. Your members might operate in different time zones or have limited flexibility for daytime meetings. Coordinate the best time using email or through a digital scheduling system.
Conduct Your Virtual Board Meeting
Once you’ve organized your board meeting and gotten your board members on your video call solution, it’s time to conduct the meeting. While you’ll discuss business as you would at regular meetings, a virtual environment can amplify potential distractions. To keep your board members on the same page, try these tips.
- Keep your meeting focused and on-time. Start the meeting at the agreed-upon time and stick to the agenda. Add time limits for each agenda item and hold your members to that limit. You’ll cover a lot in a short span, so help your board members stay efficient.
- Assign a facilitator for group discussions. Some agenda items may require breakout sessions for committee work. Assign a board or staff member to lead those discussions. Some video call solutions can break a large call into smaller groups for focused discussions.
- Go around the “room” and ask for thoughts to encourage participation. One challenging part of a virtual meeting is ensuring everyone voices their opinions. Encourage board members to ask questions throughout the call — don’t save them all for the end. Staff or board leaders should also ask individual members to share their thoughts. Try not to go for more than five minutes without checking in or asking for reactions.
- Review governing documents for board functions like digital voting. Do your bylaws allow for a vote to be taken remotely? You’re still conducting business, so double-check your governing documents for particular stipulations. Board members may need to vote on suspending bylaws to allow for digital voting or to use other virtual meeting features. Make sure the provisional vote is documented in writing (email or an online voting tool) to be amended officially in person eventually.
After Your Meeting
Once the meeting ends and board members log off, plenty of work must be done. Digital board engagement still requires touchpoints to help board members follow through on the most important post-meeting tasks.
- Assign tasks to keep everyone on track. On your agenda, note who is responsible for what item and the expectations for success. Your digital board engagement solution may let you tag board members and assign them follow-up tasks.
- Send polls to board members and improve your meetings based on their feedback. Ask them what worked and what should be tweaked about board meetings. Did everyone feel heard and included? Did the meeting run too long or too short? Were there topics some members wanted to discuss more? Feedback leads to process improvements to strengthen the next meeting.
Even in uncertain times, your board can lead confidently with well-run virtual board meetings. With the right amount of preparation and an understanding of digital board engagement fundamentals, you can ensure your organization provides leadership with everything needed to successfully weather these new challenges.
Jeb Banner is CEO and co-founder of Boardable, a board management software company serving nonprofits around the world. Previously the CEO of SmallBox, a creative agency he co-founded in 2006, Jeb is also the founder of Musical Family Tree, a nonprofit dedicated to spreading Indiana music, and co-founder and past chair of The Speak Easy, an entrepreneurial co-working nonprofit located in Indianapolis, IN. Along the way Jeb has co-founded or invested in a number of other Indianapolis-based businesses. He lives in Indianapolis with his wife Jenny and their three lovely daughters. In his spare time, Jeb collects vinyl records, records music, and cooks as much as possible.
Boardable is an online board management portal that centralizes communication, document storage, meeting planning, and everything involved with running a board of directors. Founded in 2016 by nonprofit leaders and founders, Boardable has a mission to improve board engagement for nonprofits. Boardable is based in Indianapolis, Indiana. Learn more at www.boardable.com.
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