Sherman County eNews Special Edition F

Sherman County eNews Special Edition F

  1. Meeting Room Checklist

  2. Conducting Meetings

  3. Meeting Ground Rules – A Parts List – Make Your Own Rules

  4. 26 Steps to Improving Committee Functioning

A board member recruitment process should mirror the processes we are so used to with employees.  First we determine what qualities we are seeking. We create a job description. We advertise the position, use word of mouth, see if there are already good candidates in our midst. We look for a pool of people as applicants, not just accepting the first one who says “yes.” We have them fill out applications. We interview prospects. We check their references. These are all the things we do when hiring employees. These are also the things a good organization does to recruit its board members.

1. Meeting Room Checklist

  • Abundant parking
  • Catering, cafeteria, or restaurant available
  • Appropriate number of chairs and tables for group
  • Chairs and tables that are movable
  • Appropriate room setup for event
  • Registration table
  • Table for coffee, snacks, food, water, cups, napkins
  • Trash cans
  • Telephone in the room
  • Internet access
  • Electrical outlets
  • Projection equipment
  • Microphone
  • Extension cords
  • Dry erase board, markers, & eraser
  • Flip chart & markers
  • TV/VCR
  • Variable lighting capabilities
  • Temperature control
  • Wall space & appropriate tape for posting flip chart paper

2. Conducting Meetings

Following is a much-abridged version of Robert’s Rules as they might be adapted for nonprofit meetings. The goal is to promote a balance of fairness and efficiency. Tailor them to fit your own organization. Meetings should be fair so that people who have a point to make are given an opportunity. Meetings should be efficient so that time is spent on discussion relevant to the matter at hand. ~ American Society of Corporate Secretaries.

Order of business–[per agenda circulated in advance]

  1. Opening of meeting (Chair)
  2. Submission of minutes of previous meeting (Secretary)
  3. Reading of reports, i.e. Treasurer’s, Fund-Raising, Program Committee’s and discussion
  4. Old business
  5. Unfinished business from previous meetings
  6. Motions that were tabled from previous meetings
  7. New business–motions to be made for voting by the board
  8. Meeting closing (on schedule)


  • Only members and guests recognized by the Chair may speak. 

Motions and Voting

  • Generally, before any item can be discussed, there should be a motion made and seconded. Once a motion has been seconded, discussion will follow. After discussion, one of four things can happen:
  • There can be a vote on the motion.
  • The motion can be amended (second required). Then there can be discussion on the amendment. The amendment can be voted. If the amendment passes, the motion automatically passes. If the amendment fails, the motion still stands and can be discussed until voted.
  • The motion can be tabled (second required). There can be no discussion on a motion to table–a vote must be taken immediately. If the vote is to table, no further discussion can take place on the motion.
  • There may be no action on the motion–therefore it becomes old business at a future meeting.
  • Motions must be clear and concise. A motion to “improve fund-raising” would be vague and discussions could meander. However, a motion to “sponsor a benefit golf tournament” is specific and could be effectively discussed and acted on. 


  • Make general board meetings more productive by use of committees and rely on committee reports as a basis for action. Committees can sort through minutiae and come forward with a well-developed proposal for the whole board to consider. Committees can also be a development pool for future board members.


  • The Chair of the meeting is responsible for maintaining order. On procedural questions, the Chair’s ruling will be determinative and final.

Also see: Governance for Nonprofits: From Little Leagues to Universities A Summary of Organizational Governance Principles and Resources for Directors of Nonprofit Organizations By The American Society of Corporate Secretaries and The National Center for Nonprofit Boards.

3. Meeting Ground Rules – A Parts List – Make Your Own Rules

Ground rules are agreements about expected behavior in meetings. The purpose of ground rules is to make explicit the group’s norms about how team members will interact, thus preventing or reducing misunderstandings and disagreements. Ground rules may differ greatly by department, committee or group, but they should always contribute to the group’s ability to work together effectively.

  • List your primary ground rules on each agenda.
  • If you have new attendees/board or committee members who are not used to your meetings, you might review each ground rule.
  • Keep the ground rules posted at all times.

Make your own ground rules!

A parts list:

  • Participate. Speak up!
  • Focus.
  • Maintain momentum.
  • Reach closure.
  • Trust. Good intentions can work through difficult issues.
  • Respect. Respect the rights of others to different points of view.
  • Inquire. Explore feelings, ideas, thinking; listen for new understanding.
  • Share your ideas and thoughts. Be authentic. Seek feedback.
  • Engaged listening. Focus. Refrain from judging & giving advice. Reflect and summarize.
  • Be on time.
  • Listen with interest.
  • Signal respect by your body language & eye contact.
  • Be open minded.
  • Interact with others.
  • Participate in discussions.
  • Be willing to compromise.
  • Listen twice as much as you speak.
  • Listen to yourself.
  • Capture your ideas on your notepad as they happen.
  • Headline first when you speak, then give a brief background.
  • Stay open-minded to new ideas; suspend judgment.
  • Speak only for yourself; let others do the same.
  • Offer ideas or make statements instead of asking questions.
  • Find value in what others say.
  • Assume positive intention.
  • No heat-seeking missiles.
  • Keep the best interest of the organization in mind.
  • Treat everyone in a dignified manner.
  • Support decisions made by consensus.
  • Everyone participates–no one dominates.
  • Listen as an ally, a partner, and work to understand before evaluating.
  • Silence will be interpreted as agreement.
  • We will assume positive intent first when things begin to go wrong.
  • Minimize interruptions and side conversations.
  • Cell phones must be turned off. Leave the room to answer calls.
  • We encourage dialogue, not argument.
  • We do our homework in order to be ready to work.
  • We seek group consensus.
  • In dealing with conflict, listening, giving and receiving feedback, we will not shoot the messenger.
  • We will be honest in our communication.
  • Membership implies commitment, engagement & attendance.
  • Respect one another with voice and body language.
  • Speak only for yourself.
  • Focus on interests.
  • Work together to reach mutually acceptable solutions.
  • Speak up.
  • Ask questions.
  • Listen carefully.

4. 26 Steps to Improving Committee Functioning

~ By Terrie Tempkin, Ph.D., NonProfit Management Solutions, Inc.

Nonprofit Boards and Governance Review
April 3, 2003

Most of the nonprofits with which I work expect their board members to actively participate on at least one committee. The expectation is that it is through committees the work of the organization will occur. However, few see committees as an expedient means of accomplishing their goals. Laurence Peter, author of The Peter Principle, echoes the true feelings of many when he facetiously suggests, “to get something done, a committee should consist of no more than three people, two of them absent.”

Despite their various drawbacks, you can expect to spend a lot of time in committees, especially with the traditional concern in nonprofit organizations for people and process. Minimize your frustration and maximize your productivity by following some simple steps.

  • Be clear about the committee’s purpose.  What does it exist to accomplish?
  • Stay away from standing committees wherever possible.  The urgency and importance of the committee’s tasks tend to get diluted when the group meets month after month.  Instead, rely on ad hoc (self-limiting) committees to deal with specific issues.
  • Give considerable thought to who should sit on the committee.  Look outside the board and, perhaps even, the organization.  You will not only increase your chances of finding people with the specific skills you need, you will end up cultivating potential board members for the future.
  • Tell people why they were asked to sit on the committee and what is expected of them. Include likely commitments of time, energy, skills, contacts and money.
  • Spend some time allowing committee members to bond.  People are more willing to participate and take on responsibility when they feel a commitment to the group.
  • As a group, state the problems or issues to be tackled.  This way everyone starts on the same page.
  • Limit committee discussions to topics that fit the organization’s mission, vision, values and priorities.
  • Send out agendas and preparatory materials ahead of meetings so that people can come prepared to work.
  • Meet only when there is something substantial with which to deal.  There is nothing sacred about monthly meetings.
  • Give people sufficient notice of meetings and try to avoid making last minute changes to the schedule.
  • Begin and end your meetings on time.  People are far more likely to come if they feel you respect their calendar.
  • Assign tasks as evenly as possible.  While it may be easier to ask the same handful of people that do everything, it guarantees that you limit participation, leadership development and potential productivity.
  • Solicit then listen to everyone’s input. After all, the value of committees is summed up in the adage “two heads are better than one.”
  • Don’t just accept comments at face value.  Feed back the comments in your own language, applying your interpretation. Ask questions. Probe.  Be sure you understand what is being said, and why it is being said.
  • Assume that even the most off-the-wall ideas make sense to the people who express them.  Instead of rejecting such ideas out of hand, ask for clarification.
  • Don’t fight over ownership of an idea.  The important thing is that the idea is out there to potentially benefit the organization.
  • Speak only for yourself.  Let others provide their own explanations or rationales.
  • Play the devil’s advocate.  Always ask the group to consider the downside of a pending decision.  When people feel they have thoroughly looked at all the potential negatives, they are more confident of any decisions to proceed.
  • Strive for consensus.  While time consuming, it simplifies implementation and ensures commitment.
  • Bring conflict into the open.
  • Don’t assume that silence means agreement in situations where decisions are being made.
  • If you can’t reach consensus, consider:
    a) identifying shared interests and working to build on those;
    b) thinking up ways to make the most promising option better or more palatable;
    c) putting aside the solutions already on the table, restating the mission, vision and goals, and generating a new list of possible solutions that might also/better meet the organization’s needs;
    d) initiating a trial period in which the strongest option is put to the test;
    e) changing the scope of the problem:
    f) agreeing to limit the decision to procedural items rather than substantive.
  • Stay focused on the goals and tasks of the committee.
  • Keep action-oriented minutes
    a) record only resolutions and votes, not “he said,… she said”;
    b) include sections such as supplies to order, ideas to implement, people to call;
    c) Summarize with who will do what, by when.
  • Follow-up after the meeting.
    a) ask committee members if they are comfortable with their decisions;
    b) set up a system to bring those who missed the meeting up to date;
    c) do what you promised to do at the meeting.
  • Prepare a report to the board. Include:
    a) the committee’s recommendations;
    b) the pros and cons of each recommendation;
    c) the rationale for the recommendations made.

Following these 26 steps will ensure that your committees won’t operate like those cited by Milton Berle. The comedian used to say that a committee is a group that keeps minutes and wastes hours.