Returning to in-person governance
Wednesday, June 23, 2021
Associations adapted their governance processes during the pandemic. Moving from in-person to online board meetings was a significant change that proved to be effective. Boards have become accustomed to online governing meetings.
However, resistance occurred. Some boards postponed important business, preferring to wait for in-person meetings. A few directors were described as leery of online meetings, believing that the important work had to be conducted face-to-face.
In-person meetings are resuming. Directors are assembling inside the boardroom, picking up where they left off. Expect there to be a mix of in-person and online options in the future.
For directors returning to the boardroom, remember these fundamentals to improve results:
As fiduciaries, directors need to prepare for board meetings. When the agenda is distributed, look it over to understand the issues and planned work. Directors with questions should address them to the organization’s executive director or the chief elected officer. Avoid rump sessions where a few directors get together before the meeting to decide how they’ll vote.
When reports are distributed in advance, be sure to read them. Reading and listening to reports at the meeting is not good governance. Coming prepared makes best use of volunteer and staff time.
If needed, pull out the bylaws and policies for a quick review. An hourlong “refresh and blend” orientation may be appropriate as authorities allow meetings to occur.
When a meeting in announced, there must be good reason to convene the board. As a volunteer who made a commitment to serve, make time to attend the meetings.
Remember to RSVP when the meeting is announced, without making staff “track you down.” The staff has to determine if a quorum will be present to conduct business. Further there is need to consider the count for copies, seating, food and beverage.
Dust off the strategic plan if it has set on the shelf for the pandemic year. Memorize the mission statement; it should frame every discussion and decision in meetings.
At the meeting, let the chair do his or her role without interruptions. There is work on the agenda to be completed. Remember to ask for the floor before speaking. Encourage everyone to be heard before speaking a second or third time.
Directors have the authority to make governance decisions within the duly called meeting “from gavel to gavel.” After the meeting, directors must support the decisions of the group.
The chief elected officer is the official spokesperson. No director should leave a meeting to “air dirty laundry” about confidential discussions. Directors only speak for the organization when or if they have received specific authority.
Following meetings, put on your volunteer hat and offer to help with the initiatives and projects that arise as a result of the board meeting.
While everyone is eager to return to in-person meetings, it is possible that on-line options will continue. Some directors don’t have time for the travel, finding the on-line platform to be equally effective. Organizations save money on food and travel. Expect hybrid models to be adopted.
To every volunteer leader, “Thank you.” It is time to get back to governing and advancing the mission.
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