We are all familiar with the age- old statement “it is better to be seen than heard.” Well, when it comes to non-profit governance – it is better to be heard, and best to be seen!
For any of us that have served on non-profit Boards, we know that from time to time there are decisions that need to be made in between regular meetings. Wouldn’t it be easy if we could just send everyone on the Board an email and have them respond with their thoughts?
Well, it isn’t that easy. In all reality, it is rarely even a valid way to do business. In most states, at the very minimum, for a non-profit Board to make a decision, they must be able to hear and be heard by other members of the Board prior to voting. They need the opportunity to hear about the issue, participate in dialogue, and vote in a manner in which everyone knows who is voting in which direction.
The best way to do business for a Board is in a fashion in whichyou can be seen, be heard, and interact. This doesn’t mean that the only way to do business is to get together and have a face-to-face meeting. You can do video conference, conference calls, webinars, and more – but for a vote to be valid, in most of the country, everyone must be able to hear and be heard.
Why is this important? Well, often the decisions we need to take quick action on are related to contracts and operations. In that world, we want to protect ourselves as Board members, staff members, and volunteers. If there were ever a question, it protects us to have minutes noting that we had conversation, an opportunity for debate, and a clear decision.
An interesting tidbit: in the few states that do allow for e-mail voting, most of them require that every single Board member eligible to vote participate, and that the vote be unanimous. If you hold a call or a video conference, even if it only lasts 15 minutes, all you need is a quorum to conduct business.
Here are some great resources for your next Board meeting:
- Google Hangout – provides free video conference for up to 10 participants
- GoToMeeting – free 30-day trial – full video conference with screen sharing ability
- Zoom Meetings – Free basic plan – same basic features as GoToMeeting – but free for up to 40-minute meetings for up to 25 participants
- www.freeconferencecall.com – Free conference call number
Even with all of this great information and these resources, there is a ton of additional information that will be beneficial to you. For a quick overview of the laws related to electronic voting in whatever state you may be in, check out this report – one of the best I’ve found — http://boardeffect.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/Electronic-Voting-Report-FINAL.pdf. It does a great job outlining how voting should work for everyone!