Boards should meet NOT email

I opened my e-newsletter from Jean Block yesterday, scrolled through it, and nearly jumped out of my chair when I read her link to an article in The Non-Profit Quarterly about boards that are voting on issues in between meetings using email . In a nutshell, the article spells out all the reasons why taking email votes is neither legal nor a very practice. I strongly encourage you to click the previous link and read the article for yourself (after you are done reading this blog, of course … LOL).

My former supervisor at Boys & Girls Clubs of America used to periodically rant to me about email. If I heard it once I heard it one hundred times … “email is an information technology and not a communication tool”.  Regardless of whether or not you agree with him, I think we can all agree that email has its limitations. I thought the MAXIMUMadvantage website did a good job of naming the times that email is not appropriate.

Board members that use email voting are not exercising their fiduciary responsibilities. How in the world can we “discuss” important issues unless we’re engaged in a “real-time” discussion?

I know that there are people reading this blog who are saying to themselves that board members are “too busy”. To those folks, I suggest that anyone who doesn’t have time to attend board meetings probably shouldn’t be a board volunteer.

Please don’t misunderstand … there are appropriate roles for everyone in your organization. You just need to take the time to be donor-centered and relationship-oriented by getting to know the person and finding the right opportunity for them to support your mission.

Not every big donor or important person needs to be on the board of directors. It is possible to “engage” donors and community decision-makers without asking them to join the board.

  • Ask them to be a program volunteer or fundraising volunteer.
  • Ask them to help with strategic planning or participate in a focus group or a special project.
  • Just listen and then ask them to do something they are passionate about.

My bottom line is that square pegs shouldn’t be asked to fit into round holes.

Others of you might be saying that non-profit organizations have a tendency to “over meet” their volunteers. If that is the case, then I simply suggest that we need to figure out how not to do that. Instead, we should focus our efforts on having powerful and effective meetings. It “must be” possible because there is a website with the name LOL. At the very least, in all seriousness look into instituting a consent agenda.  Additionally, here is a YouTube video with a few meeting tips.

Other than a consent agenda, what other strategies are you using to streamline board meetings while maximizing impactful and strategic discussions that serve to engage and empower board volunteers? Please share your thoughts and practices in the comment section before another email proxy vote is sent out for consideration.

Here is to your health!

Erik Anderson
Owner, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC!/eanderson847!/profile.php?id=1021153653


  1. Hi Eric,

    Thanks for the mention of Maximum Advantage. I’m going to give your readers access to content about email that is normally reserved for my members. This includes two videos that demonstrate why email is not effective in all situations. Enjoy! Why Email Goes Wrong

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