From my observations and those of my colleagues, zoom meetings are more efficient for reporting operational items like compliance updates. But they lack the robust human social interactions provided by face-to-face meetings.
While it appears that some nonprofits will increase the proportion of zoom meetings post-covid, both groups, those using it now and those using it post-covid, may now be looking to reduce the human deficit incurred.
Here are some suggestions:
More But Shorter Meetings: Instead of monthly board meetings, schedule one-hour zoom meetings every two or three weeks. With the social intensity in the environment, some boards are being required to meet more frequently. In advance of the meetings, ask the CEO to send a list of announcement types items, hopefully, limited to one page. (Have it understood that the one page may not meet the requirements of her/h high school English teacher!)
Onboarding New Board Members: A friend joined a nonprofit in June. As a result of all zoom board and committee meetings, she feels adrift of human connection. She might even not recognize some of her new colleagues if she passed them on the street. This problem can be alleviated to some extent by arranging for the new member to have brief individual zoom meetings with other board members and senior managers. It’s a quick fix to a problem that may exist for a year or more until face-to-face meetings can be resumed.
Strategic Planning. It was evident in the pre-corvid period that strategic planning needs to have a longer focus than the traditional three to five-year plan in order to achieve organizational sustainability. There are enough pieces of evidence of post-covid changes to continue strategic planning with small committees. This involves more frequent, but shorter, zoom meetings for the planning committee and updates to the board.
Building Trust: Having trust among board colleagues is critical to having a fully functioning board. Talking directly to them, listening carefully, and even watching body language or face colorings. Some people, for example, when agitated develop a flushed face. None of this appears on Zoom! There are several actions Board Chairs and/or CEOs can take to help members to be better acquainted, hoping to lead to trusting relationships.
- Good & Welfare Periods: At the beginning or end of the zoom meeting ask members to share personal or professional events—promotions, marriages, children or grandchildren, etc.
- Outside Presentation: At a social zoom meeting, arrange for a local or national authority to talk about a mission-related topic
- Invite the board members’/managements’ spouses or significant others to also be involved.
- Other Interests: Invite board members/management persons to discuss unusual skills they have or other groups to which they belong that promotes the public interest.
- Board Education: Where possible continue board education via zoon. If staff persons participate, be certain presentations are rehearsed and that time restrictions are carefully followed.
Focusing on any of these four areas, listed in bold format, in a time-compressed nonprofit environment can be difficult. In my opinion, nonprofit boards should review them to determine if they can help alleviate the obvious deficits inherent with zoom meetings.