So you've set up your Mission Statement (maybe even a constitution), so you know what you're about… You've hopefully talked a little about 'Good-Will' and compromise… Maybe you've even skipped ahead and done job descriptions, and people are ready to launch into particular tasks…. Whoaaa Nelly! Now it's time to breathe life into the heart of your organization - your monthly board/group meetings are the heart from which all else is nurtured and vivified. Construct these meetings with as much clarity as you can.
What system do you want to set up for yourself? Time-limited or open-ended debate on issues? (A few 2am finishes might make you think again…) Roberts rules of order? Consensus? Majority vote? Equal vote?-or Chairman/President has deciding vote in event of tie? Location? Rotational hosting of meeting by each board member (home or other location)? Who's taking minutes? (nominal/elected secretary?). Record just motions/votes & outcomes, or the whole debate? Minutes are public record, open to members/others.
Whatever system you decide, consider also the dynamics - Who's not being heard? Who's dominating and why? By dint of ideas and clarity, or personal passion or even aggression? Who's not hearing others? Is an agenda being pushed through that not everyone has bought into? Is it ok to agree to disagree? What commitment is required? My way or the highway! - Says who? Why? Compromise is essential in group settings - ride that bucking bronco of passion, anger, aggression, resentment towards the corral of compromise; sometimes he'll toss you - sometimes you'll get there - sometimes it will be an incredible ride to who knows where…
These are some of the mechanics and dynamics you will have to attend to. But what about Content? Start with a brainstorming session, and the questions: "What do we think we need to do, or should do?" or: "What should be our goals?"
So everyone throws their ideas into the hat (write them on a board, or flip-chart) - look for way-out and even impossible ideas. IMPORTANT - do not judge or debate these ideas at this point, instead allow the free flow of ideas, encourage far-out stuff, after the 'normal' type items have been put-up. This helps to stretch our thinking, and hopefully we can avoid closing anyone down through negativity or ridicule. Sometimes one of these far-out items catches our imagination, it inspires us, and we decide to go for it! Sometimes it helps to make a DEADLY SERIOUS process a lot of fun! (Once it's on the board, it belongs to the group anonymously, and my ego won't get hurt if it isn't subsequently prioritized.)
The next step is to prioritize each of those items as one of - essential - would be nice - ok but get to it later -or impossible right now - too wacky for us - we might get locked-up etc. Then tackle each of your top/essential items in order; and debate how to accomplish it, i.e. decide what tasks are required - set a timetable/schedule - allocate resources of manpower/money (oops did I forget to talk about a budget…? - anyway you probably know how much cash you got and relegated that half-hour TV slot to a later more prosperous time of your existence…). Now we have Commitment. Who is actually going to do what? Did they volunteer, or were they volunteered? What does accountability look like? Some essential tasks are very essential/critical, you don't want to miss e.g. a publication deadline for the promotional launch of your organization, or a deadline for the local phone listings/directory, a conference registration/spot, not get notices of your AGM out in time… All of these have happened and will happen again - to you? Also, let's be realistic, your budget will allow you to do some things, and not others. I've seen grown men wring their hands and get all twisted-up and forget about what could be accomplished right now because the 'world was against them - there's a conspiracy against 'x'… etc.', just because the cold hard cash wasn't instantly available. Earning it, fund-raising, creating a convincing promotion/appeal, building membership was just a little too hard for them… don't see too many men's self-help organizations do ya?
Your minutes should have Action Items highlighted, with Names and Dates written in next to them. Someone needs to ride shotgun, oops a little too much of a violent image perhaps, let's say, be a buddy, to oversee/check in on such critical items and their completion. We are the walking wounded… sometimes we screw-up… in a big way! Don't point that thing at me…
A special word from our sponsors: "Don't trash with the cash!" Which means your Treasurer is scrupulous about recording the ebb and flow of your financial tide. Every dollar/cent coming in should be noted in your accounts. Likewise every dollar/cent going out. Nothing leaves a bad taste like dubious or unrecorded spending. Hopefully your Treasurer has some accounting or book-keeping background. If not you may need to set up a simple recording system for them, with categories where they are to record income and outgoings. Your board needs to be able to follow the flow of finances as an inherent part of their planning; having a current/monthly report is a great help (not only the balance, but also the individual items). This is an excellent tool and safeguard to remove doubts and prove your financial credibility and scrupulosity to members and others. In addition, your accurate financial accounting may one day support your application to become a charitable society. Non-existent financial records do not impress the powers that be - who are there to oversee the appropriate use of public money, and to safeguard public trust. Ideally there's a hacker amongst you who can help to set-up a simple computerized accounting system. Then your coffers can be managed in a very straightforward process. Simply select the account category, enter the numbers going in and going out, and the computer prints a report and balance automatically. This doesn't even have to be on a sophisticated accounts software program - a spreadsheet will do.
Two or more of your officers should have signing authority on your cheques. They will need to sign a form when the bank account is opened. Cheques should require two signatures, and not be pre-signed by even one of the officers. Ok it's a little inconvenient, but a monthly payment of bills is not too much of a delay (at board meetings). Also it's not as inconvenient as someone running off with all your cash, with your signature on the cheque. Again, your Treasurer needs to be on the ball here, if bills don't get paid, e.g. phone line, you might get cut off. Ouch! Consider a petty cash box, with a float of $50 to $100, this will pay for incidentals, occasional mail-outs, office items etc. - receipts need to be provided to be reimbursed - otherwise you've just made a contribution, brother! Some banks will grant no-fee chequing privileges to non-profit societies -check around. (Sorry).
This is where you get to tell all your members what a wonderful job you've done, how much fun you've had, and wouldn't it be great if somebody, anybody, would bloody volunteer to help! They will say 'wow, you were great - see you next year', and clear out at the end if you're lucky. They may say 'you were terrible, why didn't you do this or that' (projects that cost too much or no one wants to do…) and think or imply you are an idiot, or a slick evil mastermind (related to Beelze-boogieman), or a thief, or all three! And still clear out at the end.
If you are really lucky, and you've chosen your AGM at the right-time (say, a full-moon), then someone in a moment of lunar influenced madness may actually volunteer to help or even join the board, to replace the two or three or more burn-outs you've had this year.
If you are really, really lucky, someone is holding a grudge against your board or one of your directors, and shows up to display some verbal fireworks - get set for a rare display of ego entertainment and possibly organizational meltdown. We all love drama, and we should thank him for this special treat - but lastly, don't forget to ask him what positive contribution he would like to make? A dictionary may be useful at this point to help understand some of the descriptions - adjectives - nouns - expletives - applied to the persons on the board so as to explain why he wouldn't lower himself to that level. You might then ask yourself' whose stupid idea was it to hold the AGM during the full moon?'
More seriously, the AGM's are the place that you report back to your membership the results, achievements (highlighted) and failures (down-played), and maybe even your plans for next year (you do have some don't you? - beyond 'it's somebody else's turn…'). Each of the officers reports on the areas of their jurisdiction -Treasurer - Financial Report; President - overall report; Membership - membership; Editor - newsletter; Special Events Coordinator - special events etc. You get the picture. Usually the current board stands down/resigns, new elections are held with brave and courageous heroes of mankind stepping into the breach, over the bodies of their fallen comrades - fade to one or two members of the old board slinking back because no one else wants to do it… End of show… roll the credits… tidy up the pop-corn… Where's Laurence Olivier when you need him? Dead? Bloody selfish git.
If there's anyone left, they write up the minutes/motions/elections of the AGM, report on new officers and forward the Annual Report, including the Financial Report to the Registrar of Societies. And it's - 'Onward me hearties, for England, Harry, and St. George!' and 'Glad that man that he was there and he will count himself one of the Brave, and one of the Few!' Now, did that feel good? I hope so. And don't forget your scarf, it might be cold crossing the channel. Ok, mother.