How often should your board meet?

August 4, 2011

Filed under: Board Development — Tags: — jonathanpoisner @ 4:24 pm

I’ve had this question come up in conversation a few times in the last month.

There is, of course, no pat answer.

Here are some factors that would lead me to meet quite frequently (eg. monthly):

  • If the board has real fears about fiscal health and needs to either take charge of it or hold an Executive Director accountable.
  • If the organization lacks staff and the board is therefore responsible for fundraising and program
  • If the organizational lay of the land is in a very rapid state of change

Here are some factors that would lead me to meet either 4 or 6 times per year instead:

  • If there are functioning committees and you want to give committees more time between meetings to do their work.
  • If monthly meetings take up so much time that the board doesn’t feel it has time to meet its fundraising obligations.
  • If less frequent (but longer) board meetings will allow the Executive Director to spend less time doing basic board meeting prep that comes at the expense of fundraising/program.

Of course, if you go to longer board meetings, it does place a higher burden on the Executive Director to come up with other means between board meetings to maintain communications with the board.  I’ve written about the subject of ED-Board communications previously.

In my experience, as organizations mature they should move from more frequent shorter meetings to less frequent longer meetings.   For most organizations, somewhere between 10-16 hours of meetings per year should be sufficient, if there are functioning committees capable of doing the work between meetings.  This is on top of any board retreat that’s about long-range planning, which is worthy of its own blog post.

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