Nonprofit board meetings are a challenge to every chair. The chair must plan a meeting that's "just right" in terms of length; focus; actions; and, most important, keeps members fully engaged. This may mean that some agenda items just don't get equal attention by all members but of course the more important question: does the really critical fiduciary stuff get the fullest attention?
In my experience, keeping members fully engaged throughout a meeting appears to be the biggest challenge. Some business is just necessary and it's really not thrilling but requires action just the same so where to put this is more the challenge than "if" it should be included. But other items require every member to be wide-eyed and bushy-tailed.
In a recent gazette.com article about the severence pay of a hospital exec I caught the following line: "By the time you get to six or seven hours into the meeting, everybody has lost interest. It’s the human condition,” Leigh said. “You can’t sit there that long and make good decisions.”
Truer words? I know though that the majority of boards don't have meetings this long but I also know that the same response happens in meetings only two hours in length. What to do? Two ideas for the chair: make sure what's on the table has at least one board member who cares about the outcome. And, set time limits for every topic and make sure a decision is made over what to do if the topic isn't finished when the time clock runs out.
Bottom line, don't let your board's attention slip into oblivian -- the consequences for the board could matter.