Now or Later: Helping Your Board Members

During my college days, I was a master of procrastination when it came to writing papers. There’s nothing like a deadline to get the “creative juices” flowing, to heighten focus and to ramp up stress!!

For the most part, I’ve tried to gain better time management skills the older I’ve become. But I still fail at it and admit to waiting until the last minute to do major tasks.

For many of us, procrastination is a part of human nature. And I, for one, have to work hard at plowing through tasks in a timely manner.

I just wish I had a little more help to avoid procrastination on the boards and committees for which I volunteer. And the nonprofit staff members could help me as a board member a little more.

Let me explain.

One of my larger boards meets quarterly and the committee work largely occurs in between the meeting dates — or, at least, it’s supposed to work that way.

With an upcoming board meeting this weekend, it has only been within the last week that the committees have “kicked in to high gear.” This is an effort to be able to report progress or accomplishments since the last quarter’s meeting when we gather in plenary.

I’ve been inundated with emails from committee chairs requesting that I undertake certain tasks in the next day or two. Written updates and reports are being requested of me by the staff. I’ve only just received the agenda for the board meeting late last week, and materials for me to review have been sent piecemeal in multiple emails.

As a person who is constantly on the go and dealing with multiple projects in my “real job,” it is a challenge for me as a board member to keep track of all the last minute requests and expectations.

Here are three ways the staff could help me to avoid the heightened stress just days before a board meeting:

  1. Work with the board chair or executive officers to ensure that an agenda and all materials are prepared and sent in one packet (electronic or otherwise) at least 2 weeks in advance of the meeting. Last minute updates or additions can be delivered at the meeting itself.
  2. The staff should work more closely with committee chairs to ensure that they are functioning actively throughout the period of time in between meetings. This might involve setting specific tasks that need to be accomplished and placing those tasks on a timeline that spreads the required activities over the “in between” time — not waiting until the last week or two before the meetings.
  3. The staff should avoid procrastination themselves. When I’ve talked to staff members to see if we might receive materials and information earlier, the comment is usually:  “Well, board members don’t look at the materials until they’re on the way to the meeting anyway!”  Staff members sometimes blame the board members for the tardiness of planning, scheduling or agendas.  Staff should do a better job to become positive supporters to help move the work of the board along in an efficient and effective way.

I know, board members (myself included) will probably procrastinate none the less.

But if I know the staff is doing their part and working hard to support me as a volunteer, and has done some work to think strategically about how they can make my role as a board member more enjoyable, I promise that I’ll do my part and exceed expectations.

Now let me press “send” on this blog that was due about two hours ago!