Open meetings

Open meetings

Is your board (committee) meeting open? I don’t mean open to the public, although that’s far from unheard of. Open to your members. Never considered it? Can I encourage you then to consider it now?

I think that you should start from the position that, because you represent them, your members have every right to see how you are doing. Transparency, the essential prerequisite to accountability.

The fact that you have nothing to hide – or at least I hope you haven’t! – supports this starting point.

Add to this the benefits of improving communication between the board and the membership, encouraging involvement by the members in the organisation, making needs known (and therefore potentially donations), potentially increasing the number of volunteers, educating people about the operations of a board, and drawing from a larger pool of ideas.

Even after all these benefits, you may still be uncomfortable with opening your meetings. What exactly is the reason for your discomfort? If it is a reason that withstands scrutiny, and there are a couple, then rather than abandoning the idea, why not make an adjustment to your procedure to eliminate the issue? That’s what many, many others have done.

The biggest objection will probably be the need to discuss things that should remain confidential to the board members. What things? Given your starting position – transparency – then I’d go through these one by one and make sure that they are not on the list merely because of tradition that no longer has a place in your organisation, or because of an invalid assumption about the risk of disclosure. And maybe there’s even something that you are discussing that you shouldn’t be discussing, for instance the personal affairs of a member.

The solution for the things that legitimately need to be hidden from the members is the solution that has been available since the beginning of meetings: a closed (in camera) session. All bar board members leave the room while something is discussed by the board. This gives you the best of both worlds.

All other objections can similarly be solved. I mean, if an Anglican parish council, with its connection and responsibility to a higher authority, can do it, I reckon it ought to be at least your starting position.

What do you think?





4 thoughts on “Open meetings

    1. Ted Sherwood

      A different kettle of fish, therefore different considerations. I’d first ask: what are you trying to achieve in having executives attend? And what participation, if any? It was routine for me as a CFO to attend, but usually only when something within my area was to be discussed, and then I had no vote of course. Are you training them for board membership? If so, perhaps another vehicle, such as an associate directorship might work? As an executive, if I routinely participated in board meetings, and my specialist (and other) advice was routinely acted upon, I would be concerned at the risk of being held to be a ‘shadow’ director, a risk that I might not want.

  1. Craig Gear

    We’ve been advised if others are present for the meeting they could be seen to be taking on the risk of the directors. This may be if they participate or have papers rather than just observe.


    A Corporation Board is not a Parish Council. I have been a company director in multiple concurrent appointments in multiple companies for decades and regard the idea an impossibility in any corporations I have been involved with. This covers most industries and business areas.

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