The minutes of a nonprofit’s board of trustees meeting are the official, legal record. Over the years, we’ve seen this range from a few paragraphs outlining the key decisions of the board to minute by minute documentation of every word spoken at the meeting. Obviously there has to be a happy medium.
Recording your meetings, documenting a closed session of the board and open records laws are just some of the things your organization should consider to be sure you are following the law, protecting the organization and protecting the trustees. Also, caution board members against keeping their own “unofficial” copy of meeting minutes back at the office in a file folder. History has shown that these simple notes scribbled on your agenda can be used in legal proceedings. Check out these resources to be sure your nonprofit’s minutes are on target.
Board Meeting Minutes
Should the Board Hold Executive Sessions?
Nonprofit Legal Guide to Meeting Minutes
Taking Minutes of Nonprofit Board Meetings
Kentucky Open Meetings and Open Records Laws
Let us hear from you: who takes the minutes at your board meetings – staff or the board secretary?
Youth serving on nonprofit boards is an issue that comes up from time to time and while I always try to shoot you straight, I am going to be blunt here: I have mixed feelings about it. I desperately see the need for many organizations to incorporate the perspectives and experiences of different generations and target audiences, especially when the organization serves these folks. But I also see the potential legal issues and concerns. As a parent, I am not sure how I’d feel about my minor child being legally responsible. Being even more blunt: as a nonprofit executive, I’m not sure how I’d feel about a minor being part of my annual evaluation process – some adults with extensive work experiences struggle with this.
This is one of the those topics where I’m not sure there is a best practice. Since there is no law addressing this issue in Kentucky, I think each organization must look at their unique situation and determine what works best for them. But I do think it’s critical to point out that simply putting a young person (or woman, or African-American or consumer) on your board won’t solve your engagement issues. Most all of us have served as the “token” something at one time or another and it rarely leads to the desired outcome. Committee service, advisory councils and other strategies may be just as, if not more, effective in getting youth engaged in leadership roles in the sector.
One thing I am certain of is that using a tool to assess the skills, diversity and expertise needed for your board is a best practice. And I believe it’s key to strengthening your organization. If you’ve ever attended one of our Boards 101 workshops, you’ve heard me talk about “warm body recruiting.” Simply filling the seats, getting a quorum, getting “big” names for the letterhead and/or website will not build the kind of board your nonprofit wants, needs or deserves.
Youth Board Members
Young People on Nonprofit Boards? Good Idea, But Know the Law
Board Service by Young People
Let us hear from you – how do you feel about this issue? How can we successfully engage youth (and other audiences) in our decision-making? And make it meaningful? What things have worked, not worked at your organization?
Executive Director, KNN
Do term limits really help achieve long-term effectiveness for nonprofits?
In over ten years of consulting, I can’t think of a single issue as controversial as term limits for governing board members. I get it – I really do see all sides of this issue. I understand the organization’s hesitance to “lose” great board members (or less than great board members, but generous donors) through term limits and rotation. I also understand the feelings board members have, especially founding or very long-term board members. There are several reasonable arguments that can be made to ignore the best practice of term limits for board members and trust me, I’m fairly sure I’ve heard them all. But only twice in ten years of consulting have I been persuaded that this is in the best interest of the organization – and in those two instances, this was only a short-term fix. I counseled the organizations to keep their eye on the prize – an effective board. Worries about hurt feelings, lost donations, gaps in institutional memory and more are often irrational and exaggerated and can certainly be addressed with the right strategy.
For me, the bottom line of the term limit debate is that if we care about the long-term sustainability and success of our organizations, term limits are critical. Building a diverse board; cultivating new leaders; expanding our base of “friends”; giving folks a light at the end of the tunnel; and in some cases, giving ourselves an “out” to break ties with a troublesome board member are important considerations. Another key consideration is the myth that rotating off a nonprofit governing board member means goodbye. Sometimes is does and it should. But just because someone rotates off the governing board, this doesn’t mean they will no longer be a great advocate, volunteer and/or donor. Engaging former board members in committee service, advisory councils and other roles is a successful strategy.
Implementing term limits when the board isn’t sure it’s “on board” must be addressed with caution and careful planning. As I’ve told more clients than I can count, boards can be a slow moving train – patience is absolutely necessary.
Let’s discuss. How has your organization addressed the hot topic of term limits? What’s worked and what hasn’t?
Nonprofit Boards 101 Workshop
KNN Resources – Governance
Five Reasons Boards Members Should Have Term Limits
Four Ways to Remove a Board Member
What are the Advantages and Disadvantages of Term Limits?