It can be time consuming to balance a full-time job and personal obligations with board meetings and related responsibilities. Luckily, time management challenges can be mitigated with the appropriate mindset and tools.
Consider implementing the following tips to promote better time management within your board, and reap the rewards of efficiency.
1. Have a Strong Standing Committee Structure
Create a strong committee structure with defined strategic initiatives to give your board members focus and direction. Identify who on the board would be ideal to support on each committee based on their core competencies and skillsets.
Organized roles and responsibilities ensure workloads are distributed and members are working on the projects most relevant to them—both are key criteria for efficiency.
Committee examples include:
Executive: Comprised of committee chairs who oversee board operations.
Finance: Controls budgeting and finances.
Development/Fundraising: Raises money to support programs and initiatives.
Marketing: Develops and implements plans to better communicate with key stakeholders, including volunteers, donors and the media.
Governance: Recruits new members, develops board expectations and reviews performance.
Program: Evaluates service delivery, and identifies areas for improvement.
2. Encourage Personal Time Management Best Practices
Within committees, encourage members to adopt time management best practices. These may vary based on the committee, its responsibilities and group dynamics. However, some basic best practices and ideas for consideration are below.
Get organized. Organization minimizes time spent on tedious, housekeeping tasks. Evaluate what works best for your committee—whether that’s taking copious notes during meetings, color-coding documents, labeling files or using a calendaring system. Organized members spend less time looking for documents, retracing responsibilities and preparing for meetings.
Plan before playing. Take time to plan ahead to save energy later. As Benjamin Franklin once famously stated, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”
Encourage members to build lists of actionable items that need to be completed or questions that need to be addressed. Written to-do lists and task prioritization helps identify when, and for what, members need to allocate time.
Also, ensure everyone comes prepared to meetings with all necessary documents, resources and action plans. You’ll get more done at every meeting if prep work is completed in advance, and you can use meeting time to simply finalize details and field questions.
Don’t bite off more than you can chew. It is easy to get wrapped up in the excitement of board membership. However, ensure nobody takes on more responsibility than they can handle. It is counterproductive to promise more than you’re able to deliver. Start off easy, and have members work their way into new responsibilities, and their associated time commitments.
3. Promote Effective Communications
Information lost in translation wastes time and decreases overall board effectiveness. Strive to keep peers informed. Some suggestions for effective communication at the committee level include:
- Be concise and clear in instructions so that there is little room for interpretation.
- Allow ample preparation time for meetings by sending agendas and reference documents in advance.
- Keep written records of meeting discussions, follow-up activities and responsible parties.
- Share notes with the group (especially those who were unable to attend) to keep everyone on the same page.
- Between committee meetings, use email or a project management tool to update other members as needed on project progress, status changes or support required.
4. Take Advantage of Timesaving Technology
While there are definitely opportunities to modify behavior and increase productivity at the committee and member levels, individual changes can only go so far. To further promote efficient time management for the board as a whole, we recommend technology like board management software. Key timesaving features include:
- Easy documentation access for increased organization.
- Robust to-do list and calendar workflows to promote accountability and clearly communicate expectations.
- Communication platforms where board members can ask questions, share ideas and express concerns.
Regardless of method, time management is a vital trait of successful nonprofit boards.
Is your board doing everything it can to promote effective time management?
For additional ways to increase board effectiveness, download our board engagement ebook.
Image Source: Damn_Unique via Flickr