An effective board meeting can be vital to the success of any organization. At this formal discussion with your executive director, board of directors, and board chair, your leadership can assess organization-wide strengths and weaknesses. When the whole board is on the same page, the whole organization stands a better chance of meeting its long-term and short-term goals. The best way to get there is with a board meeting agenda. Below, learn how to run a first-rate melding of the minds. 

What should be in a board meeting agenda?

You’ll hold board meetings quarterly or semi-annually, and since they’re infrequent, you need to make every minute count. And with this many key decision-makers in the room (or calling in), you need a strong meeting agenda ahead of time. Clear meeting topics are just the start – below is everything else you should include.

1 Call to order

A board meeting agenda usually begins with a call to order, welcoming remarks, and the gathering’s objectives. A call to order is basically just the date, time, and location – maybe the easiest thing to add to any agenda. Once everyone is called to order at the meeting, the meeting facilitator will move through the rest of your agenda. 

Stay organized

Using a template for your board meeting will keep you organized and on top of the discussion. Try a collaborative meeting agenda tool like Fellow!

2 Agenda adjustments

The board chair should always ask everyone at the meeting if there are any changes to the board agenda. You should leave space for this part of the meeting in your agenda. Everyone might agree to leave the schedule as is, or some people might request changes. Once you adjust everything (or leave it untouched), the meeting moves on to the next part of the agenda.

3 Approval of previous meetings minutes

The third agenda item for your board meeting is a blast from the past. In this part of your agenda, there should be space for the board secretary to read the meeting minutes from the previous meeting. This way, your board members can review what happened during the last meeting. From there, they can re-assess and make necessary changes – with the entire group’s permission, of course. 

4 Reports

In this section of a board meeting agenda, several big names in the room give important updates of all sorts. Typically, the executive director gives the first report, then the finance director, then the nominating committee. There might be a report from the program committee or the public relations committee afterward too. It all depends on your organization – this section is one of the more flexible parts of a board meeting agenda. 

5 Old business 

After your reports, it’s time to revisit old items that you left unresolved last time. Now is also the time to return to a conversation you paused last time or a vote you held until now. You can leave space in your agenda to table certain items for next time or pass them off to a committee to handle outside the meeting. 

6 New business

With all your old business out of the way, it’s time to decide the board’s next steps and meeting action items. Your agenda should leave plenty of room for debate and discussion here, including a group vote to finalize decisions. You can adjust items, table them, postpone them, or send them to a committee.

7 Comments and announcements

In this part of your board meeting agenda, you’ll leave space for special announcements, congratulations, shout-outs, and reminders. Anything is fair game here, and any board member can suggest agenda items for the next meeting. 

8 Adjournment 

Once you’ve discussed and documented every open issue and new business item, your meeting facilitator will formally end the board meeting. This part of your meeting agenda is known as adjournment – a formal title for a formal occasion. You should thank everyone present for their time and state the ending time so the board secretary can add it to the meeting minutes. You should then tell everyone the date of the next meeting

Tips on how to create a good board meeting agenda

Now that you have a solid board meeting agenda template to work from, you need to know how to make the best of it. Even if you have all the right elements in place, you should push a bit more to make your meeting as effective as possible. So how do you navigate the waters of a board meeting for best results? Here’s what you should know.

Approach the meeting from a new perspective 

Like any meeting agenda template, the board meeting outline above isn’t set in stone. Adding your own spin can help you best fit your meeting to the board’s needs and goals. For example, you could reverse the meeting order and get right to the new ideas after the call to order. You shouldn’t feel limited to the same repetitive format. And seriously – the board might thank you later for your unique take on a plain format. 

Give a reason behind every item on the agenda

You can confidently say your agenda is clear if it tells everyone the purpose behind each item on the docket. Ask yourself: What is each agenda item’s goal? Will the item result in a vote or just require everyone to listen? A meeting works best when attendees know their roles and your goals. That’s how you nip confusion in the bud and cut down on unnecessary chatter. 

Time your meeting to stay on task

You should go into your board meeting with a loose idea of how long each topic will take to discuss. After all, when you only have an hour or two to cover important topics, every minute counts. If a certain agenda item is taking way too long, save it for the next meeting. Chances are there are plenty of other boxes you can check instead. 

Get to the heart of the meeting

Substance over style is always better when it comes to meetings. Namely, you should have a plan of attack before deciding the best way to explain it. A flashy presentation without any real meat or action items isn’t a productive use of your board’s time. And with the whole board in front of you, it’s especially important to be mindful of everyone’s time. One easy way to do that: Keep your topics relevant to the core issues on the agenda.

Marissa Goldberg, founder of RemoteWorkPrep, has the following to say on the subject of keeping meetings relevant. “I say no to most meetings and encourage a lot of asynchronous communication,” she says. “If I do have a meeting: There is a clear agenda with expectations, only necessary people are invited, and decisions and action items are sent following the meeting.”

Don’t overwhelm the room

We all know the feeling of sitting in a room and being talked at and overwhelmed with a million potential action items. Leaving a conference room like that can have you feeling overwhelmed and slightly confused about what you just agreed to do. That can happen at board meetings too, so don’t overload your agenda. Make some space in your agenda where you can be clear about everyone’s next steps and expectations for the best possible board meeting. 

Open the floor to feedback 

A meeting is all about dialogue. If you’re running a board meeting, you should occasionally invite everyone to share feedback. You can leave space for spur-of-the-moment topics in the agenda and end each agenda item with space for questions or concerns. This way, the meeting isn’t just for you – it’s for the whole board.

Free board meeting template

Come prepared with a board meeting agenda

A well-planned meeting agenda with a clear purpose typically helps your board get more done. It also helps keep things flowing smoothly so your board members don’t get lost or confused. And with something as important as a board meeting, keeping your board engaged and productive is critical. Fellow gives you all kinds of customizable agenda templates for meeting with your board and just about anyone else on your team. You can also write an agenda from scratch, take great meeting notes, and assign meeting action items. It’s a great tool for bringing your whole board’s goals right to you.