Then you need a process to correct that. The agenda is your process and, as the association executive, you have almost complete control over how you systemize your board meetings through this document. I would love to tell my readers that the agenda process I am about to share was a brilliant idea I had however the truth is this process came out of a national ASAE leadership symposium. ASAE has wonderful programs that should be a part of any association executive’s professional development plan- click here to view their programs. If you have never been to ASAE’s Great Ideas Conference, I HIGHLY recommend it.
The idea of using an agenda process and system is to keep your board focused on their mission and most importantly the strategic plan (which should be mission driven). One of the issues with a strategic plan is that it is often so high level directors just forget or have a difficult time conceptualizing the whole. Your job, through the agenda, is to bring it down to a level they can comprehend and to assist them in seeing their actions in context.
So here it is… the perfect agenda:
1. Call to order
2. Mega Issue -this should be an educational piece designed to get your board thinking about how mega issues (National Trends, Legislation, Market) affect your association’s mission and strategies. This is intended to give insight into your strategic plan. A mega issue can also be leadership training. For example- each January my “Mega Issue” has been Non-Profit Fiduciary Duties. The point is to start high level dialogue and deliver education.
3. Strategic Issue- this should be a point of action or a strategic plan update. If an update (which I recommend quarterly) have the board move to accept the report. This keeps a formal record in the minutes of your strategic initiatives and progress. Here is where any changes to policy or bylaws should be addressed as well as any ideas brought forth, by you or your staff, that will assist in driving the mission.
4. Officer’s Reports- Every association is different. At minimum this should be your treasurer’s report. Your treasurer should present any finance committee action here. If your president gives a president’s report have them do so here. Your president’s report should be limited to any formal actions of the President as the representative of the association- such as I gave the following interview with the media. Travel reports should be in writing and relay highlights of meetings attended.
5. Committee Reports- separated by information only and action needed
6. Old Business- None (because you should never have any if business meetings are conducted efficiently)
7. Consent agenda- items which do not require discussion but do require a vote of the board such as approval of the minutes, committee appointments, mandatory bylaws changes as directed by law or your national organization if a chapter, division or local association, or housekeeping items.
Note there is not a category for new business because the new business should be conducted within the structure of the agenda- your new business should be within the officer reports, strategic issues, consent agenda and committee reports.
And one final thing- if you are struggling to find things to put on the agenda then do not have a meeting! You don’t need one! Make sure your bylaws list the minimum required number of meetings – this isn’t to say you can’t have a meeting every month just that you are not required to.