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  • Writer's pictureSarah Gazi, CAE

Board Meeting, not “Bored Meeting”: How to Make Nonprofit Board Meetings Fun (and Productive)

A video recreation of a typical board meeting.

We’ve all been there, stuck in a board room with no end in sight and nowhere to hide. Whether you are running the meeting or just participating in it, board meetings can be painful. Sure, the work you are doing is important and hopefully the meeting is accomplishing something, but it should not feel like a trip to the dentist for root canal. Granted, not all board meetings are like this but if you feel my pain, please read on.

When you think “board meeting,” you likely don’t think “fun.” But why can’t we? Hopefully, you like the other people in the room. You obviously all have something in common. Here are just a few ideas to add a little pizzazz to your meeting and maybe even, dare I say it, have fun.

Disclaimer: Know your board members. Not every tip is right for every group.

Ditch the Suits

I know, I know, board meetings are supposed to be “professional,” but I also believe that people need to feel comfortable in order to be comfortable. A more casual approach can often lead to more open discussion, more idea sharing, and just a warmer atmosphere. Of course, you will want to let your board know the attire in pre-meeting communications.

Pick a Theme

I have actually done this one with great success. I have taken “ditching the suits” to a whole other level. I have implemented ugly shirt contests. I have decorated for Halloween and distributed masks. I have used the location, date, and industry for inspiration. I’ve given out goodies, incorporated the theme into the snacks and meals, and played theme appropriate walk-in music.

Opt for Consent Agendas

Not every board loves a consent agenda, but boy, can it make a meeting more fun if you have one. Get all that “stuff” out of the way with a consent agenda so you can have time in your meeting for fun idea sharing and brainstorming. That is often where the magic happens. And magic equals fun.

Prizes, prizes, prizes

You can make a game out of almost anything. Made the most motions in a meeting? You get a prize! Arrived at the meeting first? You get a prize! Found a hidden message in the board materials? You get a prize! Person the most hung over from the night before? You get a prize!

Promote Participation

It is harder to get bored or fall asleep when everyone is actively engaged and participating. Create an agenda that fosters collaboration and engagement. Consider having each person spearhead a conversation or break them up into groups to develop something to bring back to the full board.

Ditch the WiFi

OK, no WiFi doesn’t exactly sound fun, but the first thing many board members ask for upon entering the meeting room is the WiFi password. I often respond with “Oh I don’t have that” or “it was really expensive and I’m trying to be considerate of our budget.” Do I lie? Absolutely. I mean, WiFi is expensive in meeting rooms, but my main goal here is to keep them off their phones, tablets, and laptops as much as possible in order to stay focused and engaged. Do they complain? Always. Do they find ways around it? Of course. Do I eventually break down and get it? Sometimes. Ultimately, I do this for the sake of the meeting and to reduce distractions. Again, an engaged board is a board that will have more fun, more ideas, and yield greater results.

Start a Board Book Club

There are tons of great books out there on how to be a great board member, how to be a better organization, etc. Select a book and give it to all your board members prior to the meeting to read. Of course, not everyone will bother, but that is OK. Set aside some time in the board agenda to discuss the book and everyone’s key takeaways. This can be fun discussion over snacks. Plus, they are learning and likely thinking more strategically as a result. Win-win!

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