– Some commonsense do’s and don’ts to assist you.

NOTE: The following is an excerpt from my book, “How to Run a Nonproft,” a great gift idea for people starting on a Board of Directors for the new year.

Like it or not, the main business of a nonprofit is to conduct meetings, be it a regularly scheduled meeting for the membership, a ceremony or presentation of awards, a Board of Directors meeting, a convention, committee meetings, dinners, socials, etc. Let us also recognize nobody wants to waste time by attending an inconsequential meeting. Poorly executed meetings are the number one reason for declining attendance which ultimately affects membership. After all, if the meeting is bad, the member will not waste precious time attending and will look for other venues of interest to him.

There is nothing magical about conducting a good meeting. It just requires a little preparation, along with some leadership and structure during its execution. Here are some simple guidelines to follow:

1. Start and end on time. Not a minute before or after. This includes not waiting for someone who is running late thereby creating a problem for others. This is simply discourteous. I am reminded of Mahatma Gandhi who said, “Being late is an act of violence, an act of terrorism, because you unnerve people.” I tend to agree.

2. Follow an agenda. Print it up and distribute it accordingly, preferably prior to the meeting so others can prepare themselves accordingly.

Sample Agenda


Dress:  Business Casual

Note:  If you have a question, stand and wait to be recognized by the President.

Location:  Chapter Building, address

I.  Opening

A.  Call to order
B.  Invocation & Pledge of Allegiance
C.  Roll Call
D.  Establishment of a Quorum
E.  Review of Sickness & Distress & Deaths
F.  Introduction of VIPs.
G.  Introduction of Past Presidents & Committee Chairmen
H.  Introduction of First Time Visitors
I.  Welcoming remarks by the President

II.  Administration

A.  Reading and approval of the minutes of the last meeting
B.  Reading of correspondence
C.  Reading of Treasurer's Report - motion to attach to the minutes
D.  Review Bills Pending & motion to pay them
E.  Reading and approval of Committee Reports

III.  Presentations

A.  Awards for service & accomplishments
B.  Charities & scholarships

IV.  Old Business

A.  Vote on new members
B.  Chapter Building Maintenance Project
C.  Community Cleanup project
D.  Revisions to Budget

V.  New Business

A.  Review membership applications
B.  Assign members investigations*
C.  Initiate new members
D.  Cleanup of kitchen to comply with new health codes
E.  Questions & proposals from the floor

VI.  Closing

A.  Review activity list/punch list & schedule of events
B.  Review preliminary minutes for this meeting
C.  Benediction
D.  Motion to adjourn

3. Follow the old military principle of: “Tell them what you are going to tell them; Tell them, and then; Tell them what you’ve told them.” Developing a punch-list of action items at the conclusion of the meeting can be very useful for certain situations.

4. Introductions are important so participants know the cast of characters involved and their interests. But do not waste an inordinate amount of time here. Also, name tags or name cards are useful to avoid the embarrassment of forgetting names and titles.

5. I am not a big fan of histrionics. Many lecturers like people to get up, stretch, shake hands with everyone or hold a group hug. This can be downright embarrassing to people. Get to the point and move on.

6. Maintain order to eliminate distractions and focus on business. Got a gavel? Use one. Haven’t got one? Get one. No, you do not have to be Attila the Hun to run a meeting, just someone with a little common sense, patience, discipline, and a sense of fairness. If this sounds like a baseball umpire, it is.

7. Make the meeting meaningful and interesting. Avoid repetition, boring subjects and boring speakers. Make the meeting something people “want” to attend as opposed to feeling compelled to do so. Make them feel like they are getting their money’s worth.

As mentioned, nobody wants to attend an inconsequential meeting. If treated frivolously, people will become apathetic and attendance will drop. I can remember my homeowner association board of directors meeting would literally go on for hours with nothing of any substance resulting from it. When I finally assumed the presidency, I set new records for conducting such meetings. Instead of hours wasted, I completed the business of the association in less than an hour. The first time I did this, one member of the board asked, “You mean, we’re done?” After I confirmed his suspicions, I invited him to have a libation at a nearby watering hole.

One last point, I have little use for people who come to meetings unprepared. If you serve on a Board of Directors, regardless of how frivolous it may seem, you are doing a disservice to it by coming to a meeting unprepared. And for God’s sake, bring a pen or pencil and something to take notes on. Only an idiot comes to a meeting without anything to write with or on.


Robert’s Rules of Order, or simply Robert’s Rules, is the most commonly used guideline for parliamentary procedure and applies to meetings of just about every nonprofit imaginable. Want to bring order to Board and general meetings? Buy a copy for all of your officers and have them study it. Interestingly, some nonprofits make a point out of avoiding Robert’s Rules and leave control of the meeting to the discretion of the person holding the gavel, usually the president. Not surprising, such nonprofits typically default back to Robert’s Rules as they do not know how to run a meeting otherwise.


The term “punch list” comes from the field of construction and is used to enumerate items yet to be completed. A punch list is also a useful tool to remind a nonprofit of items to be performed and should be updated at the conclusion of a meeting, be it a general membership meeting, a board meeting, or a committee meeting. For each item on the list, it should mention not only the activity to be performed, but also who is assigned to the task and when it needs to be be completed by (a date). This reminds people of their responsibilities.

If something has been completed, take it off the list. In other words, a punch list in a nonprofit is an on-going document.


When announcing an upcoming meeting, it is wise to notify the participants not only the date, time and place, but the dress code for the meeting, and the rules to be observed, for example, use of a gavel to bring order to the meeting, stand and be recognized to ask a question or make a statement, how the meeting will follow an agenda, etc. By specifying the decorum of the meeting, you are helping to prohibit people from making a faux pas which may embarrass them, you are bringing order to the meeting, thereby expediting its execution.


People attend nonprofit meetings to escape the politics and drudgery of work during the day. Instead, they want to come, relax, and enjoy themselves. The last thing they want to hear is political bickering among officers at a nonprofit meeting. It is highly recommended you keep a tight lid on any political shenanigans, gossip, or accusations during meetings. Otherwise, you may very well scare away people. This happens far too frequently. It’s ugly, and it’s unnecessary.


All meetings should be reviewed, either formally or informally, to determine its success. Informal reviews are used for short meetings to determine action items to be followed up on. Formal reviews should be considered for all lengthy meetings. Standard critique sheets should be used for attendees and the leader to evaluate the meeting. Prepare a summary and evaluate the meeting’s success. More importantly, learn from the comments received. There is little point of going through the motions of a review if you have no intention of acting on it.

Here is a sample Meeting Critique Sheet:

1.  Meeting date _____

2.  Are you a member or a guest?

a.  If a member, how many years have you belonged?

3.  Was the meeting well controlled and run smoothly?  If not, why?

4.  What was the BEST part of this meeting?

5.  What was the WORST part of this meeting?

6.  Do you have any RECOMMENDATIONS for improving our meetings?

7.  Do you want to help the Chapter in some capacity?  If so, how?

8.  Other comments _____

9.  Name (optional) - telephone - e-mail.


Try this a few times and you might find the comments most illuminating.


A business meeting will always follow a pattern and should be managed accordingly. A general meeting of the membership, may feature a speaker or special subject. In this situation, avoid repetition and don’t let it become boring. Use your imagination and try something new. Here in Florida, we have many “snowbirds” visit us during the winter time. As such, I belong to groups who cater to our “snowbird” visitors and put on programs to suit their interests. Can’t find a speaker, how about a video instead? Someday I’ll have to tell you about the “Spamfest” I scheduled for dinner one night, or poetry reading. We had a lot of people attend.

The point is, use your imagination. Perhaps you might want to select an educational topic, review a special project, or recognize a special member for length of service. If this means trying something new, so be it. Let it never be said the programs of the group are monotonous.

Selecting dates for your events is very important. Attendance depends on not scheduling an event in competition with another nearby venue or a better subject. Research those activities that may pose a problem in scheduling; for example:

* Federal/National/Religious Holidays.

* Public School Events – for holidays and vacations. After all, parents like to schedule getaways at this time. Also, pay particular attention to graduation days and key sporting events.

* Local College – vacations and Spring breaks.

* The events of other nearby nonprofits of a similar nature.

* District, state and national meetings of your nonprofit. Quite often, a national organization will hold meetings and national conventions.

* Sporting events, such as Baseball’s opening day, All-Star game, or World Series, or; special Football, Basketball, Hockey, Golf, Nascar events, etc.

* Local community events – such as arts and crafts fairs, parades, town festivals, or special events, e.g., in my area, the Scottish games is a popular event. Be sure to check the local Chamber of Commerce schedule.

* Monitor business calendars for conventions.

* Consider birthdays and anniversaries of VIPs in your area.

Use these events to determine a suitable schedule for the programming year. Free computer calendars are available to help you record your schedule and publish it to your membership, either in printed form or via the Internet.


It is wise to track attendance at meetings during the year. Computer spreadsheets are useful in this regards. Simply note the meeting’s date, and who attended; for example:

JAN 12     JAN 14  JAN 19  FEB 02  FEB 09  FEB 18  FEB 25  MAR 03  MAR 10
Snowbird                        Spamfest
Members         8       52      7       65      8       51      8       68      8
1st Time Visit. 1       4       0       2       2       3       0       5       1
Return Visitors 2       8       4       11      2       3       1       12      1
TOTALS          11      64      11      78      12      57      9       85      10

Members         7.6     53.6
1st Time Visit. 2.2     3.2
Return Visitors 3.4     6.3
TOTALS          13.2    69.1

You may also want to track scores from the Meeting Critique Sheets mentioned above.

By tracking attendance, we can spot highs and lows, perhaps due to programming, the master of ceremonies, or some incident occurring such as an important vote. From this, we can improve programming of the meetings. However, if you have no intent on changing, regardless what the data reveals, there is little point in maintaining such a spreadsheet.


Mastering the execution of an effective meeting requires a little planning, a little organization, and a lot of management. Bottom-line, how do you know if your meeting was a success? People do not groan the next time you call one.

Keep the Faith!

P.S. – For a listing of my books, click HERE. These make great holiday gifts!

Note: All trademarks both marked and unmarked belong to their respective companies.

Tim Bryce is an author, freelance writer and the Managing Director of M&JB Investment Company (M&JB) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 40 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at [email protected]

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Copyright © 2020 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

Listen to Tim on WZIG-FM (104.1) in Palm Harbor,FL; Or tune-in to Tim’s channel on YouTube. Click for TIM’S LIBRARY OF AUDIO CLIPS.

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