Help for not for profit and charity trustees

The agenda

the agenda for meetings is all important

When I used to work in a civil service environment, I remember being surprised at how much time and effort was expended on planning for meetings. What was on the agenda – and what was to be left off – the order of the items and anxiety at anything which might upset the smooth running of the event or meeting and which might jeopardise the desired outcome.

I don’t think this sort of thing happens in small charities and it has not been my experience that it does. But board agendas do need careful attention, nevertheless. Essentially, there are three basic elements to consider: 1) the past and the future; 2) internal versus external, and 3) progress with the strategy or workplan. It may be worthwhile looking at one of your charity’s agendas with those elements in mind.

If you do, I suspect you may find a heavy bias in one direction or another and probably all of the three elements not being covered. There may be an emphasis on internal matters (staffing, premises, funding, meeting reports and such like) which on the whole are concerned with the past. This might also include matters such as health and safety and safeguarding issues which consume a lot more nervous energy these days.

Is there a report on progress with the strategy? So often, a great deal of time is devoted to preparing a strategy which can get forgotten in the hurly burly of daily life. Is there consideration of outside factors? I don’t mean a full-scale PESTLE analysis which you are likely to do once a year when you devote a chunk of time to revising the strategy at an away day for example. But some kind or recognition of what is going on in the outside world and events likely to affect the future of the charity for good or ill.

As in all things, balance is important. Agendas often simply get repeated meeting after meeting. The last agenda is called up, the date changed, an item or two added and a couple taken off, otherwise, it’s much the same. If the key elements I suggested above are not included at some point, they never will if little thought is given to the basics.

If you are a trustee then, I suggest paying careful attention to the content and balance of your board’s agenda.

Peter Curbishley

Author of How to be a Successful Trustee. ISBN 978-1-913012-61-8

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