Throughout Australia, many not for profit organisations are in the process of conducting their Annual General Meeting (AGM) of members. This is a legal requirement where the Board must organise an annual meeting of members.
During the meeting, the President and the Treasurer report on how well the association has been performing over the last financial year. Usually, an Annual Report will be produced at the end of the financial year to detail performance and financial metrics, and this will be made available to members. The members review the financial statements and decide whether to accept them as the association’s financial statements for that financial year.
In addition, the AGM is the opportunity for the appointment of the new Directors to the Board.
Associations Board members are mostly all volunteers, and very few people understand the personal time they spend to benefit the organisation they serve. Board members are legally required to attend all Board meetings on average once a month. The Annual General Meeting is just one of the meetings.
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, AGMs were typically not well attended by members of associations. These annual meetings were very formal and for many attendees, the quicker the meeting was finished, the better. It was always a struggle to get members to attend.
However, during periods of lockdowns, restrictions and border closures, association AGMs were moved into an online format. In some cases, the rules of an association required amendment to make this a possibility. In the early planning for these meetings, many association leaders were concerned they would have poor attendance.
However, AES were surprised that many association Presidents have reported that their virtual attendance rate was the best for any AGM they ever had. This was due to a range of factors. Virtual AGMs were considered much more accessible for many members, held in the evenings when they were already at home and easy to access via secure log in. Additionally, most people were free in the evenings due to a lack of social activity during the pandemic.
Additionally, many members were feeling isolated during this period and wanted to connect with each other. The Annual General Meeting provided that opportunity.
For the effective and smooth running of an association Board meeting, some best practice guidelines should be kept in mind. These ensure that the Board meeting is engaging and productive, and that future meetings continue to be well attended.
The Chairperson or President has control over the meeting
Any meeting requires a single person to take the lead. This should be either the Chairperson or the President of the Board. Although all attendees should be given the opportunity to share their thoughts and ask questions, a single leader ensures that the meeting stays on track.
Conflict of interest is declared correctly
All Board members have a duty to disclose any conflicts of interest. These are situations where their duties as a Board member for the association clash with their interests elsewhere, either in their professional role, as a Board member for a different organisation, or even through familial relationships.
All Board members are in attendance
For decisions to be made, all Board members should attend meetings. This ensures that there is the opportunity for discussion and debate and for all voices to be heard before action is taken.
The meeting progresses according to the agenda
All meetings require a comprehensive agenda prepared in advance. This means that everything that requires discussion will be included, and attendees have the opportunity to think about issues ahead of time. The agenda for a Board meeting should focus on major decisions and the mission of the association, rather than daily operational issues. Each item on the agenda should be allocated a time allotment so that it can be discussed for an appropriate length of time.
The meeting ends on time
Board meetings that run overtime are irritating and disrespectful to busy people who have other commitments. It is important that the timing of the agenda is followed so that the meeting ends on time. If it is running longer than planned, consider moving an item to the next meeting.
Every Board member participates in the discussion
All members of the Board bring their own skills and expertise to the role. For a productive discussion, everyone should share their thoughts to reach a good decision. It is important that a select few do not dominate the conversation.
There are defined resolutions or decisions
Minutes should be taken during the Board meeting to track discussion. Any resolutions and decisions made should be clearly defined and agreed upon.
A professional code of conduct that includes respect for all Board members is maintained
All associations should maintain a code of conduct for Board members, and this should be adhered to at every meeting.
With over 30 years of management expertise, Executive Director and Founder of AES, Nick Koerbin is one of the most experienced NFP leaders in Australia. He has held positions as the CEO of Materials Australia, the National Parts Code, as well as senior positions in the Institute of Insurance, Australian Quality Council, the Financial Planning Association, the Australian Human Resources Institute, and the Furniture Industry Association of Australia. Nick created AES with a vision of creating a set of management practices that could be consistently followed to ensure success. Over his 30 years in the industry, he noticed that inconsistent management practices often impeded delivery of services to members, which in turn created issues with membership renewal. By establishing AES and creating the NFP Association Best Practice Self-Assessment, Nick has been able to assist leaders in becoming more confident and informed decision makers so that they can create more effective strategies and implementation plans.
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