Ultimate Guide to Board Meeting Agendas | Aprio Board Portal
November 29, 2023
Karen Peacey

The ultimate guide to effective board meeting agendas

One sure way to improve the efficiency of your board is to create better meeting agendas. What makes board agendas good? We hear from boards of directors that good board agendas are focused, clear and concise to make sure the board addresses everything it needs to – all in the time allocated.

A good board meeting agenda sets the stage for an engaged and productive board. After all, it provides the structure, clarity, and accountability that ultimately lead to a well-organized board meeting.

But it may be time for a board agenda refresh if:

  • You’re always running your meetings with the old same agenda
  • Your agenda is almost an afterthought as you scramble to prepare for the meeting
  • You keep running over time with information updates and are not getting to strategic discussions

See our comprehensive guide to create a quality board agenda for your board of directors with practical tips, templates and samples.

You can also skip ahead to these specific sections:

To really boost your effectiveness and save hours preparing your board agendas and board packages, consider using board agenda software with time-saving automated tools, templates and secure agenda and materials distribution.

3 tips for effective board meetings agendas

How can you ensure your board meeting agenda is effective? Consider how to align your agenda with the organization’s strategic goals, ask for input and allocate time carefully.

1. Align your board agenda items with your strategic goals.

Align your board meeting agenda with your organization’s strategic goals and priorities, prioritizing items that are directly linked to achieving the mission and vision. Ensure that each agenda item has a clear purpose and desired outcome.

It can be useful to state your organization’s vision or strategic goal for the year on every agenda. By focusing on strategic issues, you keep the board engaged and committed to your organization’s long-term success.

2. Foster productivity by preparing board members in advance.

Distribute the agenda well in advance along with relevant supporting materials. Board members should have ample time to review documents and come prepared for informed discussions. Effective preparation leads to effective meetings.

3. Allocate time carefully to each board agenda item and ensure follow-up.

Be realistic in your time estimates to avoid rushing through critical discussions, with careful consideration of each item’s importance and complexity. Conclude each agenda item with a clear summary of action items, responsibilities, and deadlines.

This promotes accountability and ensures that decisions translate into tangible results. Regularly review the effectiveness of your board meeting agendas and make adjustments based on feedback to continually improve the board’s productivity and impact.

effective board meeting agendas keep meetings productive and well organized

7 common mistakes to avoid when creating board agendas

What are the most common mistakes when it comes to board agendas? Too many items, not enough time for discussions and unclear follow-up are included in our list.

1. Overloading the agenda

Including too many agenda items can lead to rushed discussions and insufficient time for in-depth exploration of critical issues. Prioritize agenda items based on importance and urgency, and consider whether some items can be addressed in committees or deferred to future meetings.

2. Insufficient time allocation

Failing to allocate adequate time to each agenda item can hinder meaningful discussions. Be realistic in estimating how much time each topic requires, and adjust the agenda accordingly. Avoid back-to-back meetings with no breaks, as this can lead to fatigue and reduced engagement.

3. Not enough time for strategic discussions

Dedicate sufficient time for strategic discussions and long-term planning. Focusing solely on operational matters or routine updates may hinder the board’s ability to guide the organization effectively.

4. Unclear decision-making process

If the process for decision-making is not clearly defined for each agenda item, it can lead to confusion and disagreements during the meeting. Specify whether decisions will be made by vote, consensus, or other methods.

5. Neglecting follow-up items

Failing to address follow-up items from previous meetings can lead to accountability issues. Always include a review of action items and progress updates from the previous meeting in the agenda.

6. Ignoring board input

Failing to seek input from board members when crafting the agenda can result in overlooking important topics or perspectives. Encourage board members to submit agenda items or feedback in advance, fostering inclusivity and ensuring that the agenda reflects collective priorities.

7. Inflexibility

Not allowing for flexibility in the agenda can be a mistake. Sometimes unexpected issues or opportunities arise that require immediate attention. While it’s essential to have a structured agenda, be open to adjusting it as needed at the start of the meeting, with input from board members.

 

What should be included in a board meeting agenda?

A well-prepared agenda is essential for ensuring that meetings are efficient and productive and that all important matters are addressed in the allocated time. While each meeting agenda can vary depending on the meeting topics organization and the purpose of the meeting, board agendas should almost always include:

  • Call to order: The meeting is officially opened and the attendees are welcomed.
  • Approval of minutes: The minutes of the previous board meeting are reviewed and approved.
  • Financial reports: The company’s financial reports, including budget and balance sheets, are reviewed and discussed.
  • Executive reports: The CEO or other executives provide updates on company performance and discuss any issues or opportunities.
  • Strategic planning: The board discusses and approves the company’s strategic plans and initiatives.
  • Governance issues: Any legal or regulatory issues, compliance matters, or other governance issues are addressed.
  • Other business: Any other items that need to be discussed or addressed are covered in this section.
  • Adjournment: The meeting is officially closed.

Who should prepare the board meeting agenda?

Typically, a board secretary, executive director or executive assistant to the CEO or CFO is responsible for preparing a board meeting agenda and will work closely with the board chair and executive. Board admins will also gather input from board members regarding agenda items and ensure that all necessary reports and materials are included.

Regardless of who is responsible for preparing the board meeting agenda, it is a good idea that they have a good understanding of the organization’s priorities and goals as well as the issues and challenges. This allows them to develop an agenda that is focused on the most important topics and will lead to productive discussions and decision-making during the meeting.

board meeting agenda who should create them

How to prepare a board meeting agenda in 10 steps

To prepare a board meeting agenda that is well organized and leads to productive, engaged meetings, follow these steps:

Step 1: Identify who will own the agenda

Designate the responsible individual to take charge of preparing the board meeting agenda. This individual should have a deep understanding of the organization’s goals, priorities, and governance needs.

Step 2: Review the previous meeting’s agenda

Start by reviewing the agenda from the previous meeting. This helps in maintaining continuity and ensuring that any unresolved matters or follow-up items are included in the new agenda.

Step 3: Use a board agenda template

Utilize a well-structured board agenda template as a starting point. This template should include standard sections such as a called to order, approval of minutes, committee reports, old business, new business and adjournment.

Step 4: Ask for input

Ask for input from the board chair or CEO on what other agenda items may need to be included. If your board meetings don’t include time for “New Business” items, consider asking board members for their input ahead of the meeting.

Step 5: Prioritize agenda items

Once you’ve gathered input, prioritize agenda items based on their relevance, urgency, and alignment with the organization’s strategic goals. Consult with the board chair or CEO to refine the top priorities.

Ensure that the most critical topics are given adequate time and placed at the beginning of the agenda.

Step 6: Set clear time allocations

Allocate specific time limits for each agenda item. Be realistic in your time estimates to prevent meetings from running over schedule. This helps maintain focus and ensures that all important issues receive due consideration. Look at your past experience of meetings that ran on time and consider what really fits in one meeting.

Run your board meeting agenda by board chair or CEO

Step 7: Finalize the agenda

After incorporating feedback and making necessary adjustments, finalize the meeting agenda. Check that it is clear, concise and easy to follow. Include any supporting documents or reports that board members will need to review before the meeting.

Step 8: Final review with the board chair

Before distributing the agenda to all board members, review it with the board chair or executive director. This step ensures they are aligned with the agenda and can effectively lead the meeting.

Step 9: Distribute the agenda in advance

Once the agenda is finalized and approved, send it out to all board members with ample time for them to review it. Encourage members to request additions, deletions or changes if needed.

Step 10: Allow for agenda updates when necessary

It’s important to be open to making changes or adjustments to the meeting agenda. Sometimes unforeseen circumstances or urgent matters may arise and board members may want to discuss or address these issues during the meeting.

While you should be willing to adjust the agenda, you should also encourage board members to wait until the last agenda item of “New Business” or request the desired future topics added to the next meeting. This will help you keep your board meeting on track while still allowing for necessary flexibility.

See related post: Simplify board meeting preparation with board agenda software

Board meeting agenda template

Ensure these key elements are included in your board meeting agenda templates:

  • Meeting information: date, time and location of the meeting (or virtual meeting link)
  • Call to order: name of the meeting chair or facilitator who will officially start the meeting.
  • Approval of minutes: review and approval of minutes from the previous board meeting.
  • CEO or Executive Director’s report: high level updates and highlights from the CEO or executive director regarding organizational performance, key initiatives, and challenges.
  • Financial report: presentation of financial statements, budget updates, and financial performance along with an opportunity for questions and discussion.
  • Committee reports: such as the governance committee report, finance committee report or other additional committee reports as needed (eg. audit, fundraising, nominating).
  • Old business: discussion and decisions on previously tabled items or ongoing matters.
  • New business: Discussion and decisions on new items, proposals, or strategic initiatives.
  • Strategic planning discussion: dedicated time for discussing long-term strategic goals, priorities, and planning.
  • Executive session (if needed): a closed session for sensitive or confidential matters, as allowed by the organization’s bylaws and applicable laws.
  • Action items and follow-up: summary of action items, responsible parties, and deadlines.
  • Announcements: Any relevant announcements or updates from board members or staff.
  • Adjournment: Official closing of the meeting by the chair or facilitator.

You may also want to consider including these optional elements:

  • Consent agenda: A section where routine or non-controversial items can be approved collectively with a single motion and vote.
  • Guest presentations: If you have guest speakers or presenters, allocate a specific time for their presentations.
  • Open forum or member comments: Allow time for board members or attendees to share brief comments or questions.
  • Attachments: Provide a list of documents or materials that should be reviewed before the meeting, along with links or references to where they can be accessed.

You may need to tailor your board meeting agenda template to match your organization’s unique requirements and governance practices. Aim to maintain a logical flow and encourage productive discussions and decision-making.

Board meeting agenda sample

Acme Foundation Board Agenda

Date: November 15, 2023
Time: 10:00 AM PST
Location: Virtual Meeting (Zoom link)

Call to Order:

  • Meeting Chair: John Smith

Approval of Minutes:

  • Review and approve minutes from the previous board meeting held on October 15, 2023

CEO Report:

  • Presented by: Sarah Johnson, CEO
  • Update on organizational performance, key initiatives, and challenges

Financial Report:

  • Presented by: David Brown, CFO
  • Financial Statements for Q3 2023
  • Budget updates and variance analysis
  • Questions and discussion

Committee Reports:

a. Governance Committee Report:

  • Presented by: Jane Doe, Committee Chair
  • Highlights of recent governance activities and recommendations

b. Finance Committee Report:

  • Presented by: David Brown, Committee Chair
  • Financial committee updates and recommendations

Old Business:

  • Discussion on the progress of the membership drive initiative
  • Decision on the proposed amendments to the bylaws

New Business:

  • Presentation and discussion of the 2024 strategic plan
  • Consideration of the partnership proposal from Raynor Corporation

Strategic Planning Discussion:

  • Open forum for board members to share insights and priorities for the strategic planning process

Action Items and Follow-Up:

Summary of action items and responsible parties:

  • Membership Drive: Sarah Johnson to coordinate
  • Bylaws Amendments: Governance Committee to draft
  • 2024 Strategic Plan: Board members to review and provide input
  • Partnership Proposal: Finance Committee to evaluate

Announcements:

  • John Smith announces the upcoming board retreat scheduled for January 15-17, 2024.

Adjournment:

  • Meeting Chair: John Smith

Attachments:

  • Financial Statements for Q3 2023
  • Proposed Bylaws Amendments
  • 2024 Strategic Plan Presentation
  • Raynor Corporation Partnership Proposal

Cut your board agenda prep time in half with Aprio

Creating, updating and distributing board agendas shouldn’t take board administrators days. Board management software like Aprio can help your board drastically cut the staff effort for board agendas, while also helping improve board productivity and decision-making.

Here’s how it works:

  • Aprio offers multiple ways to create a meeting agenda. For example, you can upload from a file directory, use a pre-saved template or start from scratch.
  • You can then customize your agenda by adding topics and subtopics and easily upload any type of file to each section as you need.
  • Once your agenda is ready to send out the board, Aprio automatically populates an email in one click to securely share and store your board package in real time.
  • Document need updating? No problem – simply remove the previous document and upload the new file in its place.
  • Save your agenda as a template to save even more time and ensure consistency.
  • Plus, on board meeting day, get instantly ready to record your meeting minutes by starting with your meeting agenda.

Agenda builder

“Aprio’s board portal is extremely easy and straightforward to use and its robust security measures ensure the confidentiality of our company information. I love the new enhancements including agenda templates, approvals and signatures!” – Charline McKissick, Canadian Scholarship Trust

Get a tour of Aprio’s board agenda software

Let us show you how Aprio’s board agenda software can take the stress out of board meeting preparation, agenda creation and more. Talk to our team – we’d love to learn more about your board and your needs.

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