One of the first tasks a new nonprofit organization must do is recruit a board of directors. A board of directors is a group of stakeholders who help guide the strategic plans and overarching mission of a not-for-profit. In most cases, a board of directors is responsible for hiring key employment positions, creating a strategic plan, and financially supporting the organization. But the role of the board varies depending on the size and scope of a nonprofit. Legally you have to have a standing board of directors in order to file for a charitable status in Canada. Recruiting the right board members will help positively shape your nonprofit for years to come. Once you have a board in place, you’re ready for your first board meeting. During the first board meeting, a nonprofit CEO or other leaders are responsible for agreeing on a mission and preparing the proper legal paperwork. Here’s some tips for the first meeting:
Preparing for the First Board Meeting
After choosing a time, date, and location for the first meeting, create a detailed agenda. Because your first meeting will mainly consist of legal requirements, look into and add the following agenda items:
- Confirmation of the incorporation (you have the option to either incorporate federally or within your province)
- Creation and/or review of organizational bylaws
- Creation and/or vote on your nonprofit’s mission statement
- Nomination of board positions
The board chair, sometimes referred to as board president, should prepare a meeting packet with all the agenda, necessary background information, and other guidelines to help board members engage and prepare. Send this packet to them at least 24-hours before the meeting so there’s time to review the documents and prepare questions and comments.
Running a Board Meeting
Consider including a way to celebrate the first meeting, this is also an imperative time to get your board excited and engage them. Perhaps consider starting off with an ice-breaker and go around the table introducing why you’re excited to get involved. As the first board meeting begins, ensure you have someone taking detailed minute meetings. The standing board chair then calls the meeting to order, and takes attendance. Even if you have already designated other key board positions, including the secretary, treasurer, and vice-chairperson, it’s important to go through the official nomination and confirmation process. Next, have the board president or a leader within your nonprofit report on the status of the articles of incorporation. Chances are, they have already been filed with the government of Canada or your province, so this is a formality to get everyone on the same page. This is also the point in the meeting to review and confirm your nonprofit bylaws. Other topics that nonprofits commonly address during the first board are the preliminary plans to create a strategic plan, initial fundraising strategies, and the status of the tax exemption application. The board chair then closes the meeting by reviewing any action steps and officially adjourning the session.
Building a Relationship with Board Members
Your work isn’t over after the first meeting. The following day, type up and distribute the meeting minutes. Don’t forget to thank your board members for their time and continued commitment within that same correspondence. Moving forward, it’s important to pay close attention to board satisfaction. A great way to do this is by distributing a post-meeting satisfaction survey. Use this survey as a tool to learn about your board and develop board meetings into efficient, enjoyable experiences for everyone involved. You could also ask board members to connect online with your nonprofit’s social media accounts (if applicable) and join your email list. This way, your board members stay connected throughout the year regardless of your meeting schedule. Structuring a running a nonprofit board meeting takes some planning. But when your board is given the right tools, they can help elevate your nonprofit’s scope and ensure you’re meeting your mission.