Our worst selves

When I served on the board of the American Translators Association, a fellow board member drove me crazy. His blithe assumption of superiority and his ego were insufferable. Of course, it is a truism of psychology that a strong emotional reaction like that is linked to unresolved inner issues. When I looked at the matter…

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3 lists every nonprofit secretary should keep

There are 3 lists that every secretary of a nonprofit board should maintain in the organization’s official record book: A running list of the dates of board meetings. A list of officers elected or appointed and their terms, including dates when they resign or are removed from office if such occurs. A list of all…

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How casual can our HOA meeting be?

A friend was recently elected president of his homeowner’s association (HOA). The annual meeting has been run loosely, more like a social event than a business meeting. At choir rehearsal he asked me whether he should tighten things up a bit. The next minute another singer said to me, “The biggest problem at my condominium…

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Executive session in nonprofit board meetings

Directors of nonprofit organizations accept substantial and serious responsibilities when they agree to serve on a governing board. In order to fulfill those responsibilities, it is important for them to understand the fundamental rules and principles that guide their meetings. We have found that there is much confusion about nonprofit boards holding meetings in executive…

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When COVID-19 cancels your meeting

Updated 5/11/2020   We’re having to adjust to a different world right now. In general, it’s always best to have an in-person meeting on matters of great importance. This provides the fullest opportunity to discuss, debate, consider alternatives, and come to agreement. When that’s impossible, you have to look at alternatives. This article lays out the…

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Conflict of interest can be complicated

The basic principle underlying conflict of interest is easy to state but applying it in real-life cases can be complicated. In a nutshell, when you accept a position on a local government body or a nonprofit board, you are obliged to put the interests of the organization above your own personal interest, and you can’t…

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3 major pitfalls for nonprofit boards

In my experience there are three major pitfalls that can affect the ability of a nonprofit board of directors to fulfill its duty and serve its organization. Pitfall 1 – lack of immediate feedback In many cases, nonprofit boards are dealing with matters whose results will occur sometime in the future—next month, next year, or…

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Criticizing a board decision in public

It is a basic principle of parliamentary procedure that the decision of the majority, voting at a properly called meeting, is the decision of the body as a whole. The members whose views did not prevail are bound to go along with the majority. This goes back deep in time, to the origins of our…

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Avoiding action in Robert’s Rules

Guest post by Colette Collier Trohan on how NOT to do things by avoiding action in Robert’s Rules. Many thanks Colette for this useful summary! Have you ever been in a meeting and had the sinking feeling there was no good path forward? If the motion was adopted, perhaps it would inadvertently send the wrong…

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