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Monday, July 26, 2021

3 Ways to Improve Board Effectiveness in a Post-COVID World

Since the onset of the pandemic, mission-driven boards have faced difficult decisions. After getting into the swing of remote operations, many organizations are returning to the office and relearning how to operate. While once the norm, working together in person may now seem unusual. Board members may need guidance transitioning to post-pandemic life, and your board leaders should step in. 

As someone who works closely with your board, it’s up to you to make sure things run smoothly for these committed contributors who volunteer their time. To help, we’ll dive into three straightforward ways to drive effectiveness during the transition. 

Continue offering remote attendance.

Your board likely shifted to remote meetings during the pandemic to follow social distancing guidelines. When you switch back to in-person operations, you can still leverage remote attendance. 

Boardable’s guide to hybrid board meetings explains that continuing remote meetings increases attendance since remote options make it easy to accommodate everyone’s schedules. In addition, a few other advantages are:

  • Improve board governance. The technology you use to power hybrid meetings will allow your officers to keep meetings highly focused on discussion, make decisions quicker, and assign follow-up tasks.
  • Increase diversity. Eliminate social and geographic barriers. Remote attendance enables people from other parts of the country to attend, and individuals with hearing or vision impairments can participate with additional audio and video capabilities.

Consider what in-person attendance requirements you’ll put in place. Otherwise, your members may fall into the habit of attending remotely without just cause. Even with remote attendance’s benefits, face-to-face interactions offer an unreplicable sense of authenticity.

Keep your meetings highly focused.

The time your board members spend strategizing is irreplaceable. It’s easier to get distracted with side conversations when everyone’s in the same room, so maximize every moment by keeping meetings focused.

Staying focused starts with an agenda that hits all crucial topics and notes the end goal of each item (i.e. to inform, seek information, or make a decision). After the chair develops and approves the agenda, the board administrator distributes it alongside any documents that will be discussed. This gives everyone an idea of what to expect and allows them to review materials before coming together. From there, it’s up to the chair to keep the board room orderly and the conversation focused.

For hybrid meetings, consider what extra steps you’ll need to take to achieve the same level of focus. For instance, you may assign an in-person attendee to monitor the remote board room and indicate to the chair when someone has something to say. No matter how you choose to run your meetings, make sure everyone’s aligned on the guidelines upfront. 

Schedule a board retreat.

After working apart for so long, it can do your board members some good to come together for a retreat. It’s likely that board members don’t really know one another, and a retreat allows everyone to deepen their connections while also working toward your mission.

Avoid turning it into a lecture series and focus on combining training with team building and strategic planning:

  • Team building. Build time into the agenda for board members to get to know each other with ice breakers. This time is also a great opportunity to remind everyone why they serve your organization. Show a short video or bring in a client or staff member to give a testimonial.
  • Strategic planning. Your retreat is a wonderful opportunity to review and revise your strategic plan, allowing everyone to align on your organization’s goals and plan for getting there.

Whether your retreat spans over a few days or only takes one afternoon, leverage the opportunity to train your board members and make sure they’re fully equipped to serve. By the end of it, everyone will be committed to your vision, fully educated on your cause, and engaged in the success of your organization.

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When you enter the somewhat unfamiliar territory of the post-COVID world, don’t fumble through it. Support your board members during this time and take extra steps to make the transition as smooth as possible. Their appreciation will be evident in their work.


Written by Jeb Banner, founder and CEO of Boardable, a board management software provider for mission-driven boards. He is also the founder of two nonprofits, The Speak Easy and Musical Family Tree, as well as a board member of United Way of Central Indiana and ProAct. Jeb is based in Indianapolis, Indiana.

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