What happens in an organization’s initial board meeting?

For some boards, the initial board meeting is the first official opportunity to meet fellow board members; for other boards, members may already be in communication with each other. Either way, this meeting starts the formal activity of the board as a legal entity and any decisions made must be recorded in the first meeting minutes.

The board should do the following during its first meeting:

  • Determine the name and the legal address for the organization to be included in its legal documents.
  • Elect officers.
  • Authorize new officers to make business decisions for the organization (open bank accounts, sign checks, sign a lease).
  • Adopt a set of bylaws (if they have already been drafted) or start creating this document.
  • Assign duties and draft job descriptions.

How long should board meetings last?

A well-formulated agenda can help the board maximize the use of its meeting time. Board leadership should avoid unnecessarily long meetings, but should also allow some time for personal interaction and socializing.

Here are some questions to ask in determining the appropriate time frame for your meeting:

  • How often does your board meet? If you meet monthly, you should be able to take care of the business in an hour or two. If you meet only a few times a year, you may need to organize a meeting that lasts a full day.
  • What is the purpose of the meeting? Regularly scheduled board meetings may follow a tested pattern. Specially called meetings are defined by the urgency and importance of the issue. Retreats may stretch over a weekend.
  • Is your agenda appropriate? Does your board deal with board matters only?
  • Do you use consent agendas to consolidate items that leave more time for important deliberation?

Should we invite potential board members to attend our board meetings?

Some governance committees invite strong board candidates to attend a board meeting — as observers, not participants — to allow them to see how the board functions. This can be an astute way to convince someone to join your board by showing that you have interesting and productive meetings. Naturally, this approach assumes that you are efficient and proud of the way your meetings are conducted. In the end, prospective members should be convinced that how you run your meetings is one of the strong assets. Inviting all candidates to attend a meeting may not be necessary; but it may be a good idea to offer a final candidate an additional “tool” to help him or her decide to join. Remember, boards add true value during the meetings where important decisions are made.

Read the full article about nonprofit board meetings at BoardSource.