Non-Profit Organizations … How Effective are our Meetings?

A wise person once said that a meeting shouldn’t last longer than an hour. This is the length of time that you can reasonably expect to hold people’s attention spans, and the length of time  a group can sit together and realistically come up with good ideas. After that, things start to get repetitive and go off on tangents. And of course, this goes without saying (but I feel that I need to say it anyway), every meeting should have an agenda. 

I have heard from many of my colleagues that work in the non-profit sector that much time is (for lack of a better word) “wasted” in meetings. Some organizations feel that their committees must meet at certain set intervals of time (say, for example, every month), even if there is really not anything that specifically needs to be discussed.

I have noticed also a dichotomy between older and younger lay leaders. Younger lay leaders (especially in Israel) are working, have young children, etc. Older lay leaders are also busy, but their busy-ness is more with the recreational activities of retirees- classes, get-togethers, etc. The older generation of leaders seem to prefer having meetings throughout the stages of a project, where the younger lay leaders seem to prefer having one meeting where everyone is assigned their task, and given the freedom to complete it. In these days when we are trying to integrate younger people into our organization, it can cause some friction when the older members do not like working in the “new” way.

Have other people out there experienced this in your organizations? How do you deal with this? How do you make the older members still feel valued and part of the organization, even though they may no longer hold the leadership roles they once did?

I’d love to hear your thoughts on how to make meetings more effective. Is part of working in the non-profit sector just dealing with these meetings, or is it possible to change this aspect of non-profit culture altogether?

Chava Ashkenazi

Jerusalem, Israel

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2 Responses to Non-Profit Organizations … How Effective are our Meetings?

  1. Marna Becker says:

    Hi Chava, I didn’t know you had a blog! Nice! 🙂

    I think this goes for both the nonprofit and for profit sectors to be honest. But you really deal with two issues- the issue with meetings, and the issue between the generations. I totally support what you say about the length of meetings- the shorter, the better.

    That being said, I do know younger folks who do better with more meetings of a shorter nature. It keeps them busy and keeps them on target with their task. Also, there are some “older” folks that are more independent and who don’t need as many meetings. They were once part of the “younger” generation as well. I think it’s always important to see something from another perspective and to empathize with your other team members for maximum efficiency in any setting. I don’t think age or “generation” should have much to do with it.

    Great post and I look forward to reading more 🙂 May you have continued success! 🙂

    • chavaleh1127 says:

      Hi Marna, Thanks for your feedback!

      You bring up a good point. I guess certain people prefer to have meetings and certain others don’t; it doesn’t necessarily have to be a generational issue.

      I look forward to hearing your thoughts on future posts! 🙂

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