Your First Board Meeting: Structure and Formality

Your first Board meeting needs to have two things; structure and formality.

If you are the Board Chair, then it’s essential to recognize that you are in control; you set the agenda, pace, tone, and what is of value. This may feel intimidating, but following these simple steps below will set up your first meeting for success.

Invite Board Members to the Meeting

  1. Send a meeting invitation three weeks prior via email to all Board Members.
  2. Make the first meeting an hour and a half in length.
  3. Include the time of the meeting and the address where it will be held or which online service you will be using, like Zoom.
  4. If possible, host the Board Meeting in a quiet place such as in an office meeting room or a private room in a restaurant.
  5. Do not host your meeting in a public space, like a coffee shop.


Create a PowerPoint document covering these three sections; Program Overview, Finances, and Fundraising. Please keep it simple, with no more than one-to-three pages for each section.


Set an agenda of twenty minutes for each section of your PowerPoint document. That will leave you with thirty minutes to have a free conversation at the end.

Send a Reminder Email to the Board Members

  1. Send a short email with the agenda and the attached PowerPoint document one week before the meeting. Ask everyone to review the PowerPoint document before the meeting.
  2. Include the time of the meeting and the address where it will be held or any login information for an online service like Zoom.
  3. Be sure to thank everyone in advance for their time.
  4. Ask one person in a private email if they will take the “minutes” for the meeting. You cannot take the minutes because you will be too busy leading the discussion.


Be prepared for your meeting. Ensure your PowerPoint document works on the projector, monitor, or Zoom call. If you are meeting in person, preparing black and white printed copies of the presentation for everyone in attendance is a good idea.

Host the Meeting

Finally, it’s time to host your first meeting. Set the tone from the beginning. Remember, during your meeting, these people are Board Members first and friends second. Begin with something like this, “It’s time to start our meeting. Today’s meeting will run for an hour and a half. We have a lot to discuss, so let’s get started. Has everyone had time to review the PowerPoint document I sent?” Wait for everyone to answer. “Our agenda today consists of three sections; Program Overview, Finances, and Fundraising; each will be twenty minutes in length. Is there anything that you would like to add to this agenda?” Wait for everyone to answer. “I will be staying on schedule and ending each section on time. I have scheduled thirty minutes at the end of the presentation to discuss anything we might have missed during these three sections. Let’s get started.”

Following this simple structure will set up your first Board Meeting for success. Don’t overthink your first meeting; keep it simple, and get it done.