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Leading Effective Business Meetings (Nonprofit)

Every board has a fiduciary responsibility to act in the best interest of the members and association. Nonprofit board members have delicate jobs of balancing their roles while also producing results for their constituencies. As a leader of a nonprofit board, the board president must do his or her due diligence to ensure that the team is maximizing their efforts. One such way of achieving optimal results is to ensure that business meetings are ran effectively. This can be achieved in a number of different ways. However, this article will focus on utilizing emotional intelligence and motivational communication to move the team forward.

Overcoming Challenges

Before diving into the communication strategies, it is important to understand some of the commonly known challenges that boards face. In the article, The Dynamic Nonprofit Board, Jansen and Kilpatrick identify some of the common problems that lead to board dysfunction, which ultimately leads to the board spinning its wheels. Understanding these challenges will allow the president to address them immediately and adjust quickly to meet the needs of the association. Some of the mentioned challenges that persists in nonprofit boards are:

  • Unclear about mission;

  • Lack of clarity in vision and goals;

  • Poorly established boards that do not understand their role; and

  • Failed processes (Jansen & Kilpatrick, 2004).

In order for any organization to thrive and be successful, there must be clarity, unity, and direction. The president generally communicates these principles. Failure to do so will lead to stagnancy, frustration, and lack of results. If the president finds that he or she is inheriting a board that is in this state, it is up to him or her to motivate the team. This could be done through team building exercises, motivational quotes on leadership to start the meetings or even sharing stories that have positive outcomes, which are directly related to the team’s plight.

As the president of the board, one must be able to articulate a clear vision and purpose. He or she is there to navigate the team in a common direction that is tied to the mission of the association. If the president finds that he or she is unable to formulate this clearly, then solicit assistance from the board members. Remember, the board is a unit. If one is failing then the board is failing. Where onus is placed heavily on the president, remember the board members play an intricate role in the association’s success too. Conversely, it is important that each board member understands his or her role and also understands the bylaws of the organization, which are the governing rules. This will lead to the start of effective communications and actions on behalf of the board.

Core Functions of Board

Scholars suggests that boards are there for four primary reasons:

  • Monitor and evaluate the financial and legal state of the association;

  • Support it by securing resources that are needed to sustain the association;

  • Partner to ensure that the right strategies and plans are in place and aligned with the mission of the organization; and

  • Finally, to represent the members, advocating on their behalf (Cumberland, Kerrick, D’Mello, & Petrosko, 2015, pp. 450).

Keeping these core functions in mind can assist with meeting purpose. Here is how. Meetings are a necessary part of business functionality. With boards, the bylaws generally identify how often the group should meet. It is up to the president to ensure that there is a clear purpose when calling a meeting to ensure that the group is not wasting their time meeting for meeting sake. If meetings are run poorly, they can begin to derail the efforts of the group. Effective business meetings have a clear purpose. A president and board can utilize these four core functions to ensure that they are on track when facilitating meetings. Additionally, these functions cover the needs of the organization and will more than likely touch each board members respective area, which will keep everyone engaged during the discussions. This is where emotional intelligence can play a role in maximizing the meetings. Being aware of body language, what is not being said or even recognizing when tempers are flaring, will help the president or the facilitator of the meeting address conflict as soon as it arises. This will enable the team to address personality barriers. It will also increase effectiveness and productivity of the group.

The board has a fiduciary duty to ensure that it makes the best decisions for the members and the association. As a leader of a nonprofit board, emotional intelligence and motivational communication are both vital skills to possess. These skills will assist the president with moving the board along faster, creating a more cohesive unit sooner and eliminating useless conflict. Likewise, understanding the common challenges that boards are largely faced with can enable a president to assess and adjust their approach quickly. By ensuring that the board is maximizing every meeting as an opportunity to make an impact, it will uphold its core functions, achieving the goals that are tied to the mission and objectives of the organization.

About Author

Angela Garmon, with ARG Coaching and Consulting Group, works with organizational leaders, who are overwhelmed and frustrated with changes in their organizations. These leaders want to bring their team together and produce results. Connect with us to discuss some viable solutions to move your team closer to their


Cunberland, D., Kerrick, S., D’Mello, J., & Petrosko, J. (2015). Nonprofit Board Balance and Perceived Performance. Nonprofit Management & Leadership, 25(4), 449-462. Retrieved from

Jansen, P. & Kilpatrick, A. (2004). The Dynamic Nonprofit Board. McKinsey & Company.

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