VolunteerToday.com ~~ The Electronic Gazette for Volunteerism

Boards and Committees:

They are volunteers, too!


How to have a stronger board. How to be a better board member. Jeanne Bradner, author of THE BOARD MEMBER'S GUIDE, A BENEFICIAL BESTIARY, offers information and the latest techniques to develop your board or committee.

This new page at Volunteer Today focuses on governance, policy-making and advisory volunteers. Its purpose is to help all of those who work with or serve on nonprofit boards of directors or committees.

Send your comments and questions to Jeannebrad@aol.com.

Important Definitions

This page will discuss boards of directors, advisory councils and committees. I hope it will help those reading it to have my operating definitions of these important groups of volunteers.


One reason people say "no" to serving on boards and committees is their previous experience with meetings that have no purpose, are monopolized by a few people and last longer than necessary. Here are some ways to streamline your meetings and achieve results.

  1. Make sure there is a written agenda. If there isn't an agenda, there isn't a reason to have a meeting. Know why you need to meet and what you should accomplish. Agenda should be mailed out in advance and prepared in partnership with the lead volunteer and staff member responsible.
  2. Check the minutes of the previous meeting to see if there are unresolved issues that need to be added to the agenda.
  3. Encourage board and/or committee members to submit items in advance for the agenda.
  4. Start on time. If members perceive the meetings never start on time, they will continue to come late.
  5. Put an ending time on the agenda. Even if it's only a guess, it helps people plan the rest of their day or night and may keep people from rambling on.
  6. If you are the chair of the meeting, keep people on the subject under discussion. "We'll discuss that when we get to new (or old) business" is a way to let people know they are heard but that they need to focus on the issue at hand.
  7. As a member of any group, it is helpful to clarify statements made by others, expand on them, disagree with them or state what appears to you to be a consensus so that the meeting can move forward. But it's not good just to repeat what someone has already said as if it's a whole new thought. It prolongs the meeting and casts doubt on your listening ability.
  8. Never indulge in personal attacks. Focus on the principle: "That's an interesting idea, but I don't think it is in keeping with our mission" is much preferable to saying, "You're always coming up with irrelevant ideas."
  9. There are always those members who talk too often and those who talk too seldom. The chair should make sure that the quiet ones are asked their opinion and that the highly verbal ones don't monopolize. Looking at your watch or pointing out that there is a long agenda to cover can help with the super-talkative folk.

Jeanne H. Bradner

Jeanne H. Bradner is an author, consultant, trainer and speaker on volunteerism, board development and leadership. She is the author of three publications, Passionate Volunteerism, The Board Member's Guide, A Beneficial Bestiary and Leading Volunteers for Results: Building Communities Today. She served as director of the Illinois Governor's Office of Voluntary Action, Midwest Regional Director of ACTION, and Executive Director of the Illinois Commission on Community Service. She is the volunteer program specialist for Illinois' Harper College Volunteer Management curriculum.

Send your comments and questions to Jeannebrad@aol.com.


Copyright 2001 by Nancy Macduff.

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