If you are a director on a non-profit board, you probably deal with issues that come hurtling at you all the time. Some are urgent and need immediate attention. You put your heads together, assign someone to investigate a problem, and make a decision to take action.
But there are bigger roles to play on a board – the large regular, re-occurring activities that every board should deal with. By creating an annual board calendar, you and your board will always know what is coming up and when you need to tackle the important, long term aspects of board work. A calendar works whether your meetings are monthly, bi-monthly, or quarterly. Of course, the less frequent your meetings, the more you will have to cover at each one.
So how do you go about constructing a board calendar? First, with the frequency of meetings in mind, create a schedule of which days your meetings will be held over the year. Pick a regular time and place; for instance, the first Tuesday of each quarter at the organization’s main office. Check with your directors that they will be able to make that regular date.
Next, look at the requirements for your annual meeting. The date for it is likely specified in your by-laws. So put that on your calendar first. Expect that all of your directors will attend your annual meetings – it should be part of the commitment they make to being a director. Then work back from the annual meeting date. If you are electing new directors at your annual meeting, you’ll need to have a nominations committee in place during the prior months prior. The nominations committee will need time to identify needs, seek out candidates, screen them, conduct interviews, and provide a recommendation to the board.
Working forward from your annual meeting, you will need to include board training for new directors, and a confirmation of key roles such as chair and secretary.
Next, take note of when your annual fiscal year begins. Prior to that, your board should approve the organization’s annual operating plan. And even prior to that, there may be a step where you review the business results from the last year, as a board.
Another meeting can be devoted to policy review. Periodically, the board should review its policies and determine which need to be updated or deleted. The work should be done by a committee; but the approval is made by the board.
If you have an executive director reporting to the board, you should conduct an annual performance review. This should be conducted by a committee of the board. Once done, an update and recommendations would come back to the board. This can be another calendar item.
Risk management is an area where many boards find that they have not adequately prepared. Your board calendar should include time to spend on this. It is where the board answers the questions, “What might go wrong?” and “What are we doing about it?”
Risk management is not just insurance coverage. It also deals with risks to the enterprise because of government regulatory changes, demographic shifts, and even competitive factors. A risk management review can look at what is currently being done, and what needs to be done to ensure that risks are adequately anticipated, managed and minimized.
With a calendar in place, your board meetings will be partially planned in advance. Present the calendar at a board meeting and approve it. This ensures that everyone is committed to taking action on it. Having an annual board calendar makes for good governance and a healthy organization.