The Board Shake-Up Starts Now: Part I

Mike Schmidt, CFRE, Cramer & Associates, Executive V.P. & Partner


The clock strikes the top of the hour. Adjourned. Everyone clicks ‘Leave the Meeting’ from the Zoom room. At your nonprofit board meeting, oceans of reports were blandly presented, one after the other, with absolutely no shoreline in sight for dialogue, innovation or strategic planning.

The virtual meetings of today have magnified issues plaguing nonprofit boards – monotonous meetings, a handful of participants able to sneak in a word or two between reports, and although the philanthropic sector has significant skillset resources readily available, they’re being underutilized.

It’s an easy pattern to fall into since many board members accept the notion: It’s always been done this way, and everyone else seems to be accepting of this way of doing meetings.

Don’t maintain the status quo. A board shake-up is needed now, and here’s how… 

  1. The easiest way to change the culture and put your board member’s skillsets to use is to cut the report-out time and maximize the strategy session. This transition can be as formal as a Consent Agenda or as simple as a one-page summary coupled with strategic questions. The Board Chair or Executive Director can provide context of the topic along with helpful details.
  1. To spur ideas and encourage discussion, split board members into virtual breakout rooms (or, when we’re able to gather together again, actual separate rooms) to address key questions. Examples of these questions include: Does this idea fit into our current mission? Who are our potential partners? How can we develop revenue with this opportunity?
  1. Each breakout room should have a pre-designated moderator to pose the questions, take notes and ensure all members participate. After 30 minutes of dialog and input, wrap the breakout sessions, and reconvene with each group reporting out their ideas.
  1. Within 2 days, send a follow-up email highlighting the notes and sharing the next steps relative to the issues discussed.

During the pandemic, the Cramer Team has incorporated more breakout sessions, collaboration, discussions and the opportunity to development next practices. We have witnessed a revitalization of many board members and an overall improvement of board culture.

As members have more input and a voice in strategic directions, their willingness to follow-up and provide additional resources, time and expertise to ensure its success is greatly heightened.

Start the year with a fresh perspective and focused approach to engaging your board members. For more insight or to schedule a facilitated strategy session, contact Mike Schmidt at Cramer & Associates at mike@cramerfundraising.com or (614) 766-4483.

Review Part II of this series: Uncover New Skillset Resources on Your Board.


Cramer & Associates is a nationally recognized philanthropic consulting firm that has been serving nonprofit organizations, corporations and foundations since 1987. Our full-service firm offers clients a wide range of services, including feasibility studies, campaigns, strategic planning, board training, development audits, events, executive searches and much more. The Cramer Team identifies organizations’ strengths and opportunities and develops campaigns that succeed, empowering organizations to impact their communities.

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