The most useful and practical phrase a chair can say

By Ann Macfarlane / May 17, 2023 /
gears with word practical

Updated April 25, 2024 It’s a little risky to make extreme claims, but in the view of Jurassic Parliament, the most useful and practical phrase a chair can say is: Members will kindly seek recognition before speaking. This is based on our 25+ years of experience, in which the tendency of meetings to dissolve into…

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Is your meeting aimed at efficiency or expression?

By Ann Macfarlane / April 12, 2023 /
Photo of David Rumsey

Guest post by David Rumsey Meetings can come in all shapes and sizes.  But there are ultimately two reasons for holding a meeting: to discuss topics and/or to make decisions.  Although most meetings include both elements to some extent, understanding which element should be emphasized and when will go a long way toward achieving successful…

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The Neuroscience of You and good decisions

By Ann Macfarlane / March 29, 2023 / Comments Off on The Neuroscience of You and good decisions
Book cover Chantel Prat The Neuroscience of You

I’ve been fascinated by Chantel Prat’s book, The Neuroscience of You. She does a great job making complex information about the brain accessible to a lay person like me. Up until now, scientific research has focused on how brains in general work. This book is different. It gives ideas, quizzes and exercises to estimate how…

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Newly elected? 6 key questions for success

By Ann Macfarlane / January 7, 2022 / Comments Off on Newly elected? 6 key questions for success
A green and white name tag with the words "HELLO I AM... NEW" written in bold black letters, perfect for a newly elected nonprofit board member.

Congratulations on being elected to your nonprofit board of directors! Here are six key questions as you prepare for your new gig, with answers below: What is my moral and legal “duty of care” as a nonprofit board director? Is it a good idea to “go along to get along” on a nonprofit board? What…

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What does it look like if the chair is being a bully?

By Ann Macfarlane / December 2, 2021 / Comments Off on What does it look like if the chair is being a bully?
A bronze statue of a historical figure in armor, seated majestically on a chair with one arm extended pointing forward, set against a clear blue sky.

Guest post by Nicole Schenk Do you suspect that your chair is being a bully? Essentially, this occurs when the chair is not doing their duty to protect the rights of members during meetings, and allows their own personal beliefs or preferences to override their commitment to their duties as chair (or president or mayor—whoever…

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People don’t want to be wrong

By Ann Macfarlane / November 3, 2021 /
A red triangular warning sign with an exclamation mark and the word "OOPS" below it, set against a blue sky with clouds background, serves as a reminder that people don't want to be wrong.

Do you have board members who are reluctant to use Robert’s Rules? Who decline offers of training or useful publications? I think it’s because people don’t want to be wrong, and they suspect that if they take up this complex system, they’ll find themselves to be wrong quite often. One city clerk has told me…

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When public pressure is intense, what can you do?

By Ann Macfarlane / January 21, 2021 /
A woman in a green turtleneck holds her glasses and touches her temple, appearing to have a headache or be stressed, likely due to public pressure, with a blurred background.

At a recent workshop, a director from a school board split by pandemic-related decisions asked me what board members can do in the face of intense public pressure. These are tough times for local non-partisan government bodies, for sure. Here are some thoughts about what can be done. Download PDF Listen to your constituents, while…

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Should you have co-presidents for your nonprofit board?

By Ann Macfarlane / October 30, 2020 / Comments Off on Should you have co-presidents for your nonprofit board?
Illustration of a man and woman in business attire, both wearing navy blue suits. The co-presidents exude confidence; the man has a beard and glasses, holding a briefcase, while the woman smiles warmly with her hands relaxed at her sides.

Nonprofit organizations, like many voluntary groups in our country, struggle to locate and recruit adequate leadership. People are living such busy lives, with the demands of work, family, and personal well-being, that they find it a challenge to take on a leadership role. When there is a dearth of candidates to lead an organization—and often…

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When should the clerk speak up?

By Ann Macfarlane / September 10, 2020 /
Two women in professional attire stand facing each other; one, with a microphone, raises her right hand as the other, behind a wooden podium, administers an oath. Notably, this moment underscores when should clerk speak up during such formal proceedings.

The clerk of a local government meeting or the secretary on a nonprofit board has a high calling. Under Robert’s Rules, two persons must be present for a valid meeting: the chair and the secretary. They cannot be the same person, and state law often specifies this as well. The clerk or secretary keeps the…

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“America will be”

By Ann Macfarlane / July 31, 2020 /
French postage stamp depicting the Estates-General of 1789, with illustrations of different estate representatives. The stamp includes the text "République Française, Ouverture des États Généraux 5 Mai 1789, 0,45". It's a small yet profound reminder that America will be influenced by such historic moments.

The current turmoil in our country over social justice issues isn’t the first time, of course, that people have grappled with inequality. August 4, 1789 was a landmark in the struggle to recognize all human beings as equally worthy. Representatives of all 3 “estates” were meeting in Versailles outside Paris—the clergy, the nobility, and the…

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