When my son (now almost 7) started preschool, the kids were talking about their parents professions and my son told his class that my job was to go to meetings and talk on the phone. That was pretty accurate.
When my son was born, I left my job as a corporate attorney and became a full-time mom. For 5 1/2 years, I was a stay-at-home mom and a professional volunteer. (About a year and a half ago, I rejoined the for-pay-work-force when I started my own consulting business for mission-driven organizations, Fridman Strategies.)
Whether due to sheer number of hours spent at and running meetings, training or innate ability, I have become a meeting maven!
Here are some basic rules for running meetings of volunteers or nonprofit boards:
1. Give Ample Notice with End Times: Set the date and time for a meeting as far in advance as possible. Tell your participants what time the meeting will end up front and make sure it is not more than 90 minutes after you starting time. People’s time is valuable and scheduling difficult. Make sure your volunteers know that you value and respect it. After 90 minutes people loose focus and productivity wanes.
2. Set an Inclusive Agenda: Set an agenda and send it out ahead of time to allow for contributions from participants. Agendas need to be adhered to with room for some deviations and flexibility as needed.
3. Give Clear Charges: Make sure everyone leaves the meeting understanding next steps, clearly delineated tasks and deadlines. (I believe in working boards and committees so almost no one should leave without something to do!)
4. Keep Everyone in the Loop: Send your meeting minutes out within 48 hours after your meeting so that people who could not attend are informed and to allow for comments from those in attendance while they still remember the meeting.
5. Say Thank You! Thank you is one of the most underutilized phrases in the nonprofit word. Say it every meeting. Say it after every interaction with a volunteer. You can’t say it enough!
People who lead meetings in the nonprofit world should think of themselves as project managers and think about how each meeting moves their project or projects closer to completion, but they must remember that unlike for-profit settings, people are not being paid to participate. As such, nonprofits have to be even more careful to ensure efficient, effective and thoughtful meetings and always appreciate the volunteers and their time.