Best Practices for Effective Board Packets

CPAs & Advisors

Michael Evrard
Michael Evrard CPA Principal CPAs & Advisors

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A good board packet usually translates into productive discussions, relevant exchanges of information, and efficient use of everyone’s time. Packets should contain reference materials and tools needed to keep the board meeting running smoothly.

Materials should be provided to members well in advance of the meeting. The board should set the expectation as to when they want materials provided, but a minimum of three days’ lead time is recommended. Board members should review materials in advance of the meeting so they can develop meaningful feedback, ask questions or ask for clarifications, and make additional requests for information rather than using the time to read the material and process it for the first time.

The makeup of the materials should be what is relevant for each meeting. The materials should provide enough information for board members to make decisions, but not so much that they become overwhelmed and are unable to focus on what is important.

Following are some suggestions as to the content of the regular meeting packet:

  • Agenda. An outline of the discussion should be presented so board members will be prepared to discuss all topics; an optional time limit helps keep the meeting on track.
  • Minutes. Minutes from the prior meeting should be presented for approval.
  • Committee reports. Reports of the various subcommittees, such as fundraising and special events or personnel, should be provided to the full board to keep them informed at a high level.
  • Financial reports. At a minimum, the board should be provided with a current balance sheet with a side-by-side comparison to the prior year, a year-to-date profit and loss report compared to the prior year, and a budget to actual report. An analysis should be given.
  • Monitoring reports. In the event a grantor, oversight agency, or auditor issues a report on the organization, this should be provided to the board immediately along with approval of the responses to be given when necessary.
  • Policy adoptions or revisions should be attached for approval.
  • Other background or reference materials as appropriate. If the board will award a bid, all the bids received with a tabulation of prices and vendor evaluations should be made available. If a website design contract will be awarded, examples of some of their designs would be helpful to review. Some boards may wish to see copies of new grants awarded so they are aware of requirements and responsibilities. Management should ensure the board is getting all the information they feel is necessary.

A great option is the use of web-based tools as a one-stop resource for meetings. You can customize agendas with links to all materials, administer polls, conduct assessments, and receive email reminders of tasks/due dates, etc. The site will also host these documents on a long-term basis. Additionally, you can post impacting events and other ways to get involved in the community.

The items below are important, but may be delegated to the finance/audit committee:

  • Check registers. A check register encompassing all checks since the last meeting should be included with supporting invoices, contracts, and receipts available at the meeting upon request. It is important for management to ensure backup is available at the meeting so there is a timely exchange of information.
  • PayPal or other similar third-party statements. The board is an important control over these types of accounts and should ensure all funds received through these sources are transferred to the organization’s bank accounts.
  • Purchasing card statements and expense reimbursements, when appropriate. Often, nonprofit organizations have a small staff whose members work closely with one another, and adequate internal controls may not exist for approving purchases. Additionally, top management may have purchase cards to use at their discretion or be reimbursed for travel and other expenses. Management should not approve their own credit card or expense reimbursements. When the board is used as a control for approval, these statements should be provided before each meeting with backup available at the meeting.

With a relevant and informative ¾but concise¾board packet, more tasks will be accomplished, more effectual discussion will result from each meeting, and the meetings will likely take less time. The board packets create an expectation for board members to be prepared to engage. Could your organization benefit from a better board packet?

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