CA's Budget & Nonprofits: Part Four
05.25.2023 | Linda J. Rosenthal, JD
“If you had to identify, in one word, the reason why the human race has not achieved, and never will achieve, its full potential, that word would be ‘meetings.’” – Dave Barry
Nonprofits are great at making the world a better place. Conducting productive board meetings? Not so much.
Of course, this is nothing inherent or unique in the philanthropy sector. Even successful businesses suffer from mediocre-meeting-malady.
The challenge across both sectors is to plan a tightly focused agenda, bolstered by comprehensive information packets sent to all board members well ahead of time.
a meeting practice which packages routine committee reports, Board meeting minutes, and other non-controversial items not requiring discussion or independent action as one agenda item.
This method speeds up the meeting considerably because the Board can approve the entire bundle of matters in one motion and without discussion.
The purpose is to efficiently dispose of as many items as possible so that the bulk of the meeting is reserved for issues that require explanation, discussion, strategic thought, or a decision or action.
The consent agenda is handled early in the meeting. It’s given an up-or-down vote after allowing any Board member to ask that one or more items be moved to the regular agenda.
Of course, this must be done strictly according to a procedure approved in advance by the Board that includes sending all relevant information and documents to Board members well ahead of time.
On the other hand, matters like approving an annual budget or an update to the organization’s strategic plan would not be suitable for the consent agenda. If in doubt, leave it out.
The full agenda, including the consent items should be disseminated prior to the board meeting along with copies of reports and back up materials so that board members can do their due diligence prior to voting.
Depending on the unique situation of each organization, appropriate use of the consent agenda can save a little bit of time or a half hour or so for more in-depth attention on other non-routine items.
Consent agendas, of course, should never be used to ramrod through anything other than items that are unusual, controversial, or require discussion and group deliberation.