Strengthening Our Nonprofit Community

Take the Bored Out of Board Meetings

January 9th, 2019

Take the Bored Out of Board Meetings

by Anna White Hosea

Taylor Swift and Michael Scott were deep in conversation. Across the room, Buzz Lightyear and Frida Kahlo were having a spirited debate. Meanwhile, at the front of the room, two 90’s era game show hosts and Big Bird were watching the clock. Three… two… one… Buzzzzzz!

A Halloween party? A new game show on Bravo? No – a custom designed Board retreat for moss+ross client Marbles Kids Museum.

Anna White Hosea, Big Bird, Brooke Jenkins

Marbles is known for emphasizing play, fun and creativity. Mirroring their culture, Partner Mary Moss, Senior Associate Brooke Jenkins and I developed a creative costume/game show themed retreat. In one game, modeled after Family Feud, Board members and Senior Leadership laughed and learned about Marbles signature programs and community impact. During the Amazing [Marbles] Race, teams bonded while racing through the museum dressed in costume. During a “commercial break,” teams wrote and acted out commercials for museum audiences.

We were pleased to see how this “out of their chair” experience engaged everyone. Attendees reported that they felt “refreshed” and “energized,” that they learned more about museum programs, and that they felt inspired to “get under-the-hood of all that Marbles has to offer.” Board members also reported that they felt like they had strengthened their relationships with each other and senior staff.

Lest you think that this could only happen at Marbles, I recently worked with Linda Nunnallee, Executive Director of StepUp Ministry, to develop a “commercial break” for StepUp’s Board. Board members broke out into four groups and were asked to develop a commercial that would appeal to potential participants in StepUp’s employment and life skills programs.

One group wrote a radio ad and performed it so well that we were ready to purchase air time. Another group developed a social media post, hashtags and all, to target teenage participants. As at Marbles, we saw a Board that was turned on, highly engaged, refreshed and energized after their activity.

So, what can you do with your Board to keep them, well, not bored?

  • Know thy culture: Mirroring the culture of your organization is key. Some organizations are willing and able to get a little silly in the interest of board development, while others may need a more tailored approach.
  • Small groups work: Next time you have an issue that needs discussing, put your Board members into small groups. Everyone engages when the table gets smaller.
  • Make connections: Look for opportunities for Board members to engage with each other in ways that are meaningful and go beyond their title and board committee. Building relationships with one another strengthens their relationships with you.
  • Turn on their brains: If you and your staff are doing all the talking, your Board members brains are turned off. The one doing the talking is the one doing the learning. If you need Board members to learn about a new program you are launching, have them develop a skit or commercial to explain it to potential audiences. If you want them to better understand your physical space, send them on a scavenger hunt.
  • Have fun: We all need more play in our lives. Play can reduce stress, stimulate the brain and improve our relationships. Joy, silliness, and fun deserve a seat at the Board table, right next to strategic planning, balance sheets and fundraising plans.

Take a chance in 2019 and add some fun to your next Board meeting. And if you need a play partner, contact moss+ross to start a conversation about how to get your Board to turn-on and tune-in.

Anna White Hosea is an Associate with moss+ross. She is currently serving as the interim Director of Development for StepUp Ministry in Raleigh, NC.