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How Often Should My Nonprofit’s Board Meet? 4 Reasons To Gather the Team

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Eva

Among many nonprofit board responsibilities is determining when and how to gather. In many states, the law actually requires that boards meet at least once a year. However, there are also reasons that you might call a board meeting outside of the minimum requirement. 

In this guide, we discuss some common scenarios that require the team to meet in addition to its regular sessions so that you are prepared for anything. 

Let’s go!

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How Often Should a Nonprofit Board Meet?

Your board has to meet because this is how you address issues that come up throughout the year. In fact, in some cases, the IRS requires a yearly meeting at the very least; many states have a similar requirement. 

On the other hand, if your board meets too often, it can make the participants feel like you do not respect their time. After all, the board of directors is meant to be responsible for high-level strategy, not for day-to-day operations. 

In general, nonprofit board meeting best practices establish that quarterly meetings are a happy medium for most boards. This allows members to address any outstanding issues and be productive without feeling any "this meeting could have been an email" energy. 

how-often-should-a-nonprofit-board-meet-how-oftenSadie is ready to learn more about when to schedule board meetings!

Board meetings should loosely implement Robert’s Rule of Order to create structure. This manual documents the ideal guidelines of a deliberative assembly meeting. This includes how to make motions and vote on them. Robert’s Rule of Order also charges the secretary with recording minutes of meeting.

Your nonprofit board meeting agenda can change, but there are some general items to address throughout the year, including: 

  • Budgeting

  • Audit planning and review

  • Fundraising

You should appoint small committees to handle regular oversight, governance, and implementation. You can find out more about nonprofit board committee best practices here. 

Pro Tip: The length of your board meetings varies based on how often you hold them. If you hold monthly meetings, an hour or two should be enough to get through business. If your board meets quarterly, however, you may need to allot a full or half day to make decisions. 

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When Should a Nonprofit Board Hold Extra Sessions?

While quarterly nonprofit meetings are the norm, some situations warrant an extra meeting. Here are four scenarios that call for a team gathering. 

Reason #1: Unexpected Membership Drop

In the case of a sudden sharp drop in membership, especially for no discernible reason, immediately convene your board members. Use the time to discuss what options you have for addressing this problem. 

An unexpected membership drop is one of the few occasions that you might invite non-board members to attend a board meeting. For example, your finance staff can give feedback on how this drop is affecting your funding stream, and your fundraising team can provide ideas on how to make up this money. You may also want to invite your membership team to discuss what factors may be causing members to leave so rapidly.

Reason #2: Public Relations Crisis

Your nonprofit’s reputation needs to be sterling. Otherwise, donors and foundations may stop giving you money. Therefore, you must address any hint of scandal or accusation of corruption quickly.

During the board meeting, identify one person on the board or in the organization who can speak to the issue to keep messaging consistent. This person is likely going to be the board’s chair or the nonprofit’s CEO. Consult your legal advisor before this person issues a statement. 

Unfortunately, sometimes these accusations are correct. In this case, you need to get to the bottom of the problem as fast as possible. If the crisis is serious enough, you may need to fire the culprits or report these individuals to the police.

Reason #3: Large Donor Request 

Donations are how your nonprofit not only serves the community, but keeps the light on. All donors are important, but especially those who donate large sums on a regular basis.

In some instances, one of these major donors may request a meeting with the board to talk about the reservations they have on the direction of your nonprofit. You can manage your board’s fiduciary responsibility by agreeing to this meeting and hearing them out, but do not change your goals, programs, or operations for them. There is a limit to how far you should cater to any individual, even a large donor.

how-often-should-a-nonprofit-board-meet-extra-sessionsAnthony is thinking of the potential situations to hold extra sessions

Reason #4: National or Global Crisis 

As the COVID-19 pandemic has taught us, an economy can tank fairly quickly when a national or global event unfolds. We are an interconnected world, so if there is a potential crisis looming, call a meeting of the board. During this meeting, members can identify how this crisis is going to affect the organization and hammer out a plan to weather the storm. 

Pro Tip: Even when you are calling an unexpected board meeting, be sure that everyone is informed and ready to get to work. There is no point in spending precious meeting time rehashing events to get everyone up to speed, so send a detailed account of events and meeting schedule to everyone beforehand. 

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Final Thoughts 

Board members are the planners and overseers of the big-picture direction. Therefore, they only need to meet on an infrequent basis. 

In certain extreme cases, your board may also convene to address crises. As with regular meetings, make sure that you do not overschedule these types of meetings. By keeping board meetings a priority-level occurrence, you can ensure that each one is effective and engaging. 

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FAQ

💡What is the minimum number of times a nonprofit board should meet per year?

The IRS and many states expect nonprofit boards to meet at least once per year. However, most boards meet on a quarterly basis to stay up to date on all of the happenings. Find out more. 

🔑 What is the harm in having too many board meetings?

If inundated with meetings, members are less engaged because they feel like their time is being wasted. This does not create a space for productivity. Find out more. 

📝 Why might a board meeting happen outside of the schedule?

Board members might hold an emergency meeting to address a national, global, or public relations crisis. They may also convene if there is a large drop in membership or if a large donor requests it. Find out more.

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Eva
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