How To Run A Board Meeting As A Non-Profit And Ensure Efficiency

Writing in the Harvard Business Review, consultant Alan Cantor highlights some of the challenges non-profits face when running their board meetings. Cantor says: 

“As a consultant to nonprofit organizations, I often hear board members complain, ‘We almost never have time in board meetings to talk about strategy. We’re too busy with board business!’”

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There is a temptation to load the meeting with current matters, reports and financial details, which often means there is no time to move onto the strategic side of things. With many non-profits, directors are not paid anything other than expenses, so it can seem unfair to take up too much of their volunteer time. However, strategy is essential and should be part of all nonprofit board meetings. 

This article concentrates on how to run a board meeting as a non-profit while being efficient and strategic. Keep reading to find out the steps you need to create effective meetings.

Difference between board meetings in for-profit organisations and non-profit organisations

Although there are similarities between board meetings for both for-profit and non-profits, there are many differences too. This table shows the key variations:

Board meeting elementFor-profitNon-profit
Purpose and objectivesBoard meetings focus on maximising shareholder value and growing the company financially.Meetings prioritise mission fulfilment, impact on the community, fundraising and stewardship of funds.
Financial focusDiscussions revolve around financial performance, return on investment (ROI) and increasing profits.Concerned with funding sources, such as grants or donations, and financial sustainability to maximise funds for carrying out its work.
Legal structure and governanceOperate under corporate governance structures aiming for profitability and answerable to shareholders.Governed by a board of trustees of directors, with a selection of committees working on a variety of projects to help the organisation fulfil its mission.
Meeting contentBoard meeting agendas often include sales reports, market analysis, committee reports and shareholder interests.Agenda topics are more likely to include programme outcomes, community impact reports and donor or volunteer engagement strategies.
Stakeholder engagementKey stakeholders for for-profit companies are shareholders and customers.Non-profits focus on donors, members, service users and volunteers.
Performance metricsKey performance indicators are often financially driven, such as sales growth and profitability. Also non-financial metrics such as ESG impact.Mission-driven KPIs, measuring the effectiveness of fundraising, social impact and other metrics.
Regulatory and reporting requirementsFinancial reports are essential for for-profit organisations, as well as sustainability reporting in some jurisdictions. Must meet regulatory requirements, such as the Market Abuse Regulation and a variety of other legislation.Must adhere to local laws for non-profits, such as the European Union’s statute for cross-border associations and non-profit organisations. Will report on impact and provide financial information to local regulators.

Key strategies to run an effective non-profit board meeting

Prepare for the meeting

Preparation is key for engaging non-profit board members and creating the best possible conditions for an efficient and effective meeting. 

Meeting agenda

The meeting agenda is an essential item in this regard and you can use it to direct the course of the meeting and ensure you hit all the important talking points within the allotted time. 

Bearing in mind the importance of strategy, consider which of the regular talking points can be dealt with in committees or other meetings. Whilst you have your directors or trustees together, you want to make the most of their combined knowledge and experience and use that to inform strategy for the organisation. 

For operational topics, touch on them and present the highlights but defer extraneous discussion to another time, if possible. After you add in the routine items, ensure you allocate enough time to driving the organisation towards its goals.

Distributing materials

Once you know what will be discussed, send out meeting materials, documents and reports to board members in good time. The more time they have to read and digest, the better prepared they will be and the more likely it will be to have a more productive board meeting. Provide a method of collaboration between meetings so that some of the operational discussion can take place away from the meeting, freeing up that time for strategy. 

During the meeting

The chair has a major role to play in the effectiveness of a non-profit meeting. Here are some of the ways in which the chair can ensure a productive meeting for participants. 

Start of the meeting

Recognising the quorum at the start of the meeting is essential to ensure that it can take place and produce effective decisions that lead to productive actions. In a hybrid environment, when some people attend remotely, this is particularly important as it might not always be obvious how many attendees are present. Broadcast the feed to remote board members throughout and ensure that there are no dropouts that could cause a disruption to the quorum. 

The chair should make a strong opening to the meeting, capturing attention and providing the energy and momentum needed to carry the meeting through all of its agenda items. 

Facilitating discussion

Encourage a diverse range of opinions and make sure that everyone has a chance to have their say and make their contribution. It might be that there are a few louder voices that try to monopolise the meeting time, but the chair should ensure that they do not take over and that they bring in others who are more reserved. 

The chair should also ensure that the meeting stays on topic. Too many deviations can eat up time and mean you do not get through the agenda. This reduces the effectiveness of the meeting. 


The administrative side of the meeting is important for helping to create effective outcomes. Someone should take detailed minutes as a record of the key decisions made. Document the reasons for decisions and record them for future reference and to help you formulate and assign action points and deadlines to board members. 

Post-meeting actions

After the meeting, follow up on the points raised and clarify the action items, who is assigned to carry them out and when they need to complete them. This bestows accountability on the assignee and makes it more likely that they will carry it out in a timely manner. 

Send the meeting minutes while the meeting is still fresh in the mind and have attendees approve it or suggest edits in between meetings to save time discussing the previous meeting’s minutes at the next gathering. 

Tips for effective non-profit meetings

Ensure the meeting space is prepared and accessible to all participants 

This also includes virtual spaces when you run hybrid meetings. All board members should enjoy the same experience and opportunities, so make sure you have a system in place to facilitate voting. All members should be able to each other and each should be able to contribute to discussions when they want.

Clearly outline decision-making processes

Everyone should know how they are expected to contribute to the decisions made in the meeting. Whether you opt for a majority, consensus or unanimous decision, keep board members informed of the process. 

Address conflicts directly and respectfully

Conflicts will happen, in fact, it is important that there is no element of groupthink and that members challenge both each other and the status quo. Ensure these discussions remain respectful and give each party an opportunity to put their point across. Focus on the issues at hand, not the personalities of those expressing their opinions. 

Distribute meeting minutes promptly

Having the minutes delivered soon after the meeting reminds board members of their duties, keeps them informed about what is happening and helps to hold them accountable for their responsibilities

Request feedback on meeting effectiveness from members

The best way to improve meeting effectiveness is to ask for feedback from the people who have attended those meetings. They can tell you whether they understood the points made and how they feel you can improve your processes. Put constructive feedback into action next time. 

Encourage open, honest communication in a supportive atmosphere

Your board members are selected for their expertise and that is why you should encourage them to share their candid thoughts. This requires a supportive and collaborative environment, which you can create through team building activities and regular communication between members. 

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How often should a non-profit board meet?

Non-profit boards typically meet quarterly, but the frequency can vary based on the organisation's needs, byelaws and critical periods of activity. Some may meet monthly, especially if they are dealing with significant projects or during strategic planning phases.

Who is responsible for running a non-profit board meeting?

The chairperson of the board is responsible for running an efficient board meeting for non-profits.

How can technology enhance the efficiency of board meetings?

Technology can streamline meeting processes through digital agendas, online document sharing and collaboration tools, reducing paper use and preparation time. Video conferencing platforms enable remote participation, ensuring broader attendance. 

Additionally, board management software can track action items and deadlines, improving accountability and follow-up.

What are some effective ways to engage board members who are not physically present?

Utilising video conferencing tools allows for real-time participation and makes meetings more inclusive. Interactive presentations, virtual breakout rooms for discussion and digital polling for decisions can also enhance engagement. Ensuring all materials are accessible online beforehand allows remote members to prepare and contribute meaningfully.


By concentrating on strategic discussions, non-profits can hold successful board meetings and serve their purpose in a productive manner. To achieve this, participants must understand how to run a board meeting as a non-profit in an efficient manner. This involves better planning and preparation and utilising technology to streamline the process. 

Using iBabs meeting software, you can create a channel for members to communicate and collaborate between meetings. Within the platform, you can distribute agendas and board meeting minutes, assign and monitor action points as well as host hybrid or virtual meetings with video conferencing. Request a demo of iBabs to see how it can work for your non-profit. 

References and further reading

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