Skip to main content
Our nonprofit arts leaders wear many different hats in their roles, ranging from finance manager to event coordinator. Amid all of these costume changes and strategic pivots, plodding through the steps of preparing a board meeting can feel overwhelming.

However, at CultureSource, we see the process of engaging our board through regular meetings not as a burden; rather an intense practice of discipline.

Though this practice requires a period of trial and error, we encourage you to embrace experimentation as you determine what format works best for your organization. As you consider this, here are a few strategies we used at CultureSource to increase engagement at our board meetings.


Pick Your Venue

When selecting a venue for a board meeting, consider local organizations that are making meaningful investments in community development. At CultureSource, we’ve found hosting board meetings at venues such as the Arab American National Museum and the newly renovated Michigan Central Station can get board members excited about touring the venue, and inspire conversations about investment. Board meetings can be a space to foster engagement and productivity. But its also important to account for logistical factors such as accessibility, parking, and technical capabilities.


Find a Speaker

Bring some variety to your board meetings by inviting speakers that inspire conversation, reinforce a theme, or introduce a new concept. When selecting a guest, consideration the expertise and interest of your board members—or the overall objective of the meeting. Industry insights, leadership strategies, or innovative perspectives can inspire board members to approach challenges with renewed vigor. CultureSource has welcomed Alan Brown of WolfBrown, Allyson Esposito of Good Chaos, and Michael Orlove from the National Endowment for the Arts as guest speakers.


Prep Your Materials, Make it Skimmable

This bullet will be about how board members are busy, don’t have time to read, etc. Board members typically have busy schedules and leadership positions at their respective organizations, so they won’t always have time to read lengthy board packets and materials before meetings. Try to keep your board reports short, legible, graphical, and divided into more manageable sections. Having a concise agenda available to the board before a meeting will also help them prepare for discussion, and move the conversation forward during the meeting.

Extra Tip: Get board meeting minutes turned around within one or two weeks so they have a reference of the discussion while it’s still fresh in their minds. This can help them refer back to any action items and get a head start before the next meeting.


Encourage Engagement

Instead of quarterly board meetings feeling like another energy drain, or item on a to-do list, allow meetings to provide space for reflection on the meaning and alignment in your work. Beyond one-way reporting, board meetings can provide an opportunity to activate the talents of each board member and generate authentic dialogue. Consider the expertise that each board member possesses, specifically if it differs from your own. How could they contribute new perspectives to complex challenges you’ve been facing?

Many arts organizations are forced to juggle complexity and changing priorities in our radically evolving sector. Though challenging, this encourages organizations to pursue success by differently leveraging, structuring, and engaging entire organizations, including boards of directors.

We hope you will find these insights thought-provoking as you continue to strategize around transforming board member’s perspectives into novel possibilities.