I’m Being Selfish and I Don’t Care.

Posted in executive director / board of directors / members

I’m Being Selfish and I Don’t Care.

I see a common pattern with new non-profit board members as they prepare for their first annual general meeting. They get excited, confident, and often a little arrogant. They know what to do and say at the meeting and they certainly do not need any help from anyone to prepare.

There is a distinct difference once the annual meeting is underway and there is a room full of attendees watching, listening, and asking questions. Whether it is the reality of public speaking or running a non-profit election, it becomes clear very quickly that for most, when on stage, the confidence disappears.

How dumb could I be.

That’s when I get mad at myself. I feel duped. How stupid could I be, believing the overly confident board member really did have the knowledge and skills to handle all the necessary legal pieces of an annual meeting. I’m speechless as I watch the meeting fall apart.

I sit there and watch as item after item isn’t handled correctly. I wonder if there will be just enough information to consider the AGM decisions legal, or if we will have to call another meeting of the members. Perhaps, worse, we’ll have to wait a whole year, for the next AGM to tackle the changes the right way.

Oh, I’ll help.

These days, I provide a script, but it isn’t for the benefit of the board members speaking at the meeting, it is for my benefit. The script isn’t speaking notes or bullet points. I write out word for word what each board member needs to say for each item on the agenda.

I make notations when a time or other detail needs to be recorded. I provide options for what to say if a motion is carried or fails. I provide the words to work through the election, step by step. I provide the sentences to prevent the requests from the floor that could derail the meeting.

True, I can’t predict every question that might come up, but I use my experience to provide the answers for the questions that most common.

…and, I assign a role for each board member who attends. No one gets to rest. They all take a turn to speak. It is much harder to find fault in a colleague when everyone must share the work.

It’s all for me.

Yes, I could let the board members stumble to answer difficult questions. I could let them prepare on their own and then watch them destroy the meeting, but I don’t let that happen.

I don’t let them fail. I make them look good, but it isn’t for them, it is all for me. I don’t want a crappy new board member who is nominated from the floor because they think its funny. I don’t want minutes that are so incomplete the organization might be reported to the local regulatory agency. I don’t want to have critical bylaw changes wait until next year because the motion wasn’t legal. I don’t want a mess to clean up. So, I provide a script.

Fast forward to a new board member’s second AGM and things look a little different. They know the script will give them all the right words. They know if they ad lib and go off track, they can always come back to the right words. They know when they are in front of a room full of people, they will look experienced, polished, and oh so smooth. …and I will have no mess to clean up.

The secret, just between you and me, is that it looks like I did it all to help the board members, but really, I did it all to make my life as a non-profit executive director, easier. Yes, I’m being selfish, and I don’t care.

Your turn.

How do you prepare your board for the annual general meeting? Do you have any horror stories about things going terribly wrong? I NEED to know. Tell me your tales of AGMs – good and bad. You can use the form on the side of the page, ..or send me an email, ..or message me on socials.


Hi, I'm Christie. I help executive directors develop the systems and processes needed to run a non-profit.

I learned early in my career, there is no non-profit school. Browsing the internet for resources from big-city experts doesn’t provide practical solutions to balance the budget, write a work plan, or conduct an employee evaluation. Leadership development tips don’t really resonate when you are also taking out the recycling and cleaning the washroom.

I created ChristieSaas.com so non-profit leaders never need to wonder how to do the job – no matter how big or small that job is.

I have been the executive director of small-team, small-budget, non-profits for 20+ years. My experience isn’t theory. It is the real, operational, and practical solutions I use every day.

I love my work and I want to help you love yours too.

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