Meetings are where the magic of collaboration happens! However, conducting a meeting within your organization can be surprisingly more difficult than it sounds. As a meeting facilitator, you need to simultaneously moderate and lead the meeting.
We’ll talk about 5 tips for how to improve your meetings, so that your nonprofit is running smoothly and efficiently:
- Is the meeting really necessary?
- Preparing for the meeting
- Scheduling the meeting
- Presentation slides for your meeting
- Facilitating the meeting
Let's jump in!
1. Is the Meeting Really Necessary?
Before planning a meeting, always ask yourself: Do we really need this meeting?
According to Doodle’s 2019 report, professionals spend about 2 hours in pointless meetings each week. Poorly organized meetings may cost the United States about $399 billion in lost time and money. This is no small loss!
It’s important to respect everyone’s time. If anyone has to travel by public transportation, drive, or bike to the meeting venue, the meeting’s agenda should have topics that couldn’t be discussed over email.
If the point of the meeting can be accomplished in an email, it’d be better for everyone to do just that.
If you are just starting out and are in the process of registering your nonprofit, beware that this is a lengthy process. You might think that you need to have a meeting for every small decision, but we recommend to prioritize! Save the long meetings for reviewing things like your bylaws, articles of incorporation, and 1023 application.
2. Preparing for the Meeting
Before the Meeting
Planning ahead is the key to a well-organized meeting. Everyone should enter the meeting knowing what is on the agenda.
Invite all meeting participants in advance - maybe a few days or weeks before, depending on your organization. You can ask them to read through documents ahead of time, or prepare some questions.
Follow up with a gentle reminder before (or on the day of) the meeting, if the invitation was sent a while ago.
If any of the participants are taking on a specific role at the meeting, inform them beforehand. If they need to speak as the expert on a topic, they should be notified so they can refresh their memory or do some additional research, if needed.
For example, let's say you are a sports organization and you are organizing a meeting to decide whether to purchase some equipment for your nonprofit. You can send some documents (a reminder of the budget, a summary of planned purchases, and equipment already owned) before the meeting, to save time for everyone. It’ll be easier to make decisions during the meeting!
Send Invitations Strategically
Some meetings require specific people to attend, such as stakeholders of the meeting topic. Other meetings are more informational for the whole organization.
Before sending invitations, think about who really needs to be at the meeting.
Let's return to the previous example of a sports nonprofit looking for equipment:
The decision of purchasing equipment requires knowing about the nonprofit’s budget, current expenses, and the organization’s need for the equipment. Only a handful of people need to chime in on this decision.
On the other hand, deciding to participate in a tournament would involve more members, or at least a representative from the team.
3. Scheduling the Meeting
Choose a Date and Time Wisely
There are certain times to avoid if you want everyone’s full concentration at the meeting. If your meeting is at 11:30 a.m., people might begin to feel hungry for lunch. At the end of the day on Friday is also difficult for a formal meeting, because the weekend is so near.
On the contrary, if you want to have a more informal and relaxed meeting, these times are great for enjoying some snacks or drinks together while you discuss some topics.
Most nonprofits hold their board meetings on the same day and at the same time. It’s easier to plan ahead and avoid any scheduling conflicts if meetings are consistently scheduled each month (e.g., first Tuesday of each month at 7:30 p.m.).
If the meeting date and time depends on everyone’s availability, there are plenty of digital tools that check multiple schedules at once. You can use Doodle or When2meet to select the date and time that works best for everyone.
Choose the Location
The location of your meeting impacts its atmosphere.
If you want a formal environment for your board meeting, a conference room with minimal noise and visual distractions would be best.
If you’re meeting with volunteers to brainstorm what to plan for upcoming events, an informal space would encourage everyone to think outside the box. Picking the right meeting venue can unleash your group’s creativity.
Set an Agenda
The agenda is the outline of talking points for the meeting. With a well-defined agenda, participants know what to expect, and you avoid drifting off-topic.
Think about the objectives of your meeting. Is it to update everyone on a new project? Is the meeting to review last month’s fundraising campaign? Depending on the objective, the agenda will be organized differently.
Some meetings only have a few topics to cover. Or, your meeting agenda might have a wide range of topics, if it is a general informational meeting.
If you have an agenda with multiple objectives, you should prioritize them. This will help you allocate your time appropriately!
4. Presentation Slides for Your Meeting
A PowerPoint or Google Slides can help organize your meeting, especially with visuals to support your talking points.
The slides should have the right balance of text and images. If your slides have too much text, your audience will read the slides, instead of listening to you speak.
Some tips for your presentation:
Only one idea per slide. Your audience can understand the flow of the meeting better if different ideas are spread out in different slides.
Don’t just read the slides word for word! You can use the slides as an outline of what you’re saying, but focus on speaking directly to everyone in the room.Use graphs and tables to summarize data and statistics in your presentation, so that everyone can understand at a quick glance.
5. Facilitating Your Meeting
Begin with the Most Important Topics
Address the most important topics first in your meeting agenda. It’s easier to tackle bigger topics at the beginning of the meeting, because there’s no meeting fatigue settling in yet.
You may also want to talk about sensitive topics near the beginning of the meeting.
Any agenda items that cause tension for the group should be discussed and resolved sooner rather than later. It’s always better to end the meeting on a positive note!
Give Everyone A Chance to Speak
As the facilitator of the meeting, you can navigate discussions so that different opinions are heard, before arriving at conclusions and action items.
In every organization, there is likely a combination of people who are extroverted and introverted. You should evaluate the group if anyone needs more encouragement to share opinions.
Synthesize the Discussions
Once discussions are winding down, you should validate that the opinions have been heard and understood. Reframe remarks, decisions, and proposals. Then, offer a summary of all the expressed opinions.
You can express your personal opinion too, but be careful to distinguish it from the summary. Otherwise, participants might see you imposing your opinion.
Who is Taking Notes?
It’s usually best if someone besides the facilitator takes notes for the meeting.
Don't forget to tell the person in advance! This person will also be responsible for writing up the meeting minutes, which should be sent to each participant (including absent guests).
Stick to the Schedule
Meetings should start at the scheduled time, and end before the scheduled time.
If you start late, you will end late or skip agenda items. Neither of these outcomes are great for your meeting.
By maintaining a habit of punctuality, you’d establish a culture of beginning meetings on time. This benefits all your meeting participants!
Don’t Rush to a Conclusion
It’s important to end the meeting on time, but your priority for the meeting should be to ensure that all necessary discussions are held.
If the end of the meeting is quickly approaching, but some agenda items have not been covered, you will still need to end the meeting on time. This is why the most important topics should be discussed first.
A good conclusion to a meeting has 3 elements:
Summarize agenda items that have been covered, and determine which are postponed to the next meeting
Clarify action items and deadlines
Bonus: Creative Meeting Techniques
Sometimes we like to shake things up at AssoConnect. There are plenty of traditional meetings where everyone is sitting down at a table, but there are two other types of meetings that we like to do at AssoConnect:
Every weekday morning at 10:00 a.m., the technical team at AssoConnect has a stand-up meeting.
The meeting is held while standing up, which encourages everyone to be efficient when presenting the tasks they will be doing during the day.
The name of this style of presentation comes from Japanese. Pecha-kucha means "chatter". This type of presentation was first introduced by two Tokyo-based architects (Mark Dytham and Astrid Klein).
In a Pecha-kucha presentation, there are 20 slides, and each slide is displayed for 20 seconds. This challenges presenters to fill 6 minutes and 40 seconds with striking visual images and succinct language.
This takes some practice, but can be an interesting meeting format for your organization when you need something different to shake things up!
Meetings are important places of collaboration and creativity for your organization.
These 5 tips for running meetings will help your nonprofit be even more efficient and productive!
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