Directors of association boards are volunteers. They have full-time jobs, personal lives and they are not being paid for their time and responsibilities. It is important to take this into consideration when working with them as an association employee. Here are a few tips to ensure that both you and the association’s volunteer directors are happy and prepared for their upcoming board meeting.

Meeting Specific Reminders

The most common form of communication today is email. As mentioned above, directors are volunteers and are likely at work while you are preparing for the meeting at the association management office.

Many times, email reminders do not need to be acknowledged, but when it is dependent upon the receipt of a report or survey, it is important that the reply be timely and contain the appropriate documentation. Make sure to clearly emphasize what is needed and when it needs to be submitted to each board member. Do not expect to get an immediate response, but do anticipate receiving a reply within 48 hours. If after a couple of days, you still have yet to receive a response, it is time to contact a higher power: the association board chair. Simply ask the chair to send a quick email regarding the document or response needed. Often, this will create a sense of urgency for the board member and you can expect to receive your desired email from them shortly. Once you have received all the required responses, not only does this allow you to be ready for the meeting, but it also indicates that the board members are ready too.

For most board members, failing to respond to an email is a one-time occurrence. But what about the repeat offenders; the board members that consistently drop the ball and do not provide you with the answers or documentation that you need? It might not necessarily be their fault. Depending on their daily activities, directors may not have access to their email inbox and perhaps they are more accessible by phone. In which case, rather than bombarding them with a myriad of email reminders, a simple telephone call could do the trick. If you are still finding that there is someone who chronically does not come prepared to a meeting, give them more time to gather their thoughts and information by sending them reminders, both via email and phone, sooner than everyone else.

You can also visit my blog Preparing for Association Board Meetings for a more in-depth look at when specific emails should be delivered.

Action Item List

To make sure that tasks are not forgotten, you can create a list to diarize which board member is responsible for an item and when it needs to be completed. By having tasks listed in chronological order, it enables the quick identification of the urgency of a specific task and whether it’s completion is required for the upcoming meeting. Here is an example of what yours can look like:

Task Director Responsible Date of Completion
Provide Chair with event report John Smith October 24
Send revised document to board Jane Doe By next board meeting
Contact local exhibitors about conference All Board of Directors November 14

You will notice that in the example provided, there is at least one task that requires completion by the next board meeting. It is likely that the first two tasks listed will also be items on the agenda and an update or discussion will be required. Therefore, the adoption of an action item list will assure that the board of directors are familiar with their specific duties for the meeting.

Stay on Top of Your Tasks

You cannot expect directors to be prepared if you are not prepared yourself. Similar to the action item list described in the last section, you should also keep a list of your own responsibilities. Such responsibilities could include adding an item to the agenda, formatting responses from a survey, or even gathering dietary restrictions for an upcoming event banquet menu. By having these items outlined, you are able to see what you need to accomplish to ensure that the meeting is not hindered by the responsibilities you did not fulfill.

Last Minute Requests from the Board Chair

The lead member of the board meeting is the chair and they have the final say. To make sure that the meeting runs smoothly, he or she will often look at the agenda multiple times leading up to the meeting date. This may result in last minute changes to meeting documents. This could mean revising the agenda, changing an existing document or adding and formatting a brand-new item for the board to review. It is important to remember that when updating meeting documents, to always distribute to the rest of the board members to ensure that everyone has all the appropriate documentation for the meeting.

As you can see, association staff have the critical task of ensuring that all board members are prepared for the meeting. You also need to be aware that board members are extremely busy outside of their association duties, and you should give them the benefit of the doubt that they will be prepared as long as they have received the meeting emails from you. Your job is to facilitate board work and to ease the productivity at the meetings. By following the tips outlined above, you can be certain that both you and association board members will be ready and raring to go.