How financial data makes for better decision-making during Board Meetings.
There is an art to running a good board or directors’ meeting. Quite a few elements must come together to make it a productive time and achieving the goal of good governance.
The Office of the Registrar of Indigenous Corporations (ORIC) recently wrote out some tips on Planning and Holding Directors’ Meetings. Of course, no board meeting should go without a good money story – the essence of good decision-making. Here we add our suggestions on where to start.
Preparing for the Meeting
Good planning and co-ordination of the meeting are essential to making this a smooth and time-efficient process for board members and directors involved.
There are some key areas to focus on where you get most ‘bang for your buck’. Good communication is one of them. Notifying directors in advance goes a long way to keeping members both informed and involved. Naturally, the agenda should be circulated prior to the meeting to help everyone prepare for the upcoming event. The ORIC article mentioned earlier has a great list of what should make it onto the agenda.
Great Leaders make Great Chairs
A great chair is paramount to a fluid meeting that stays on schedule and follows the agenda. The chairperson needs to have a good understanding of constitutional matters. This helps to reduce conflict on challenging discussion items, keeping the organisation within its legal and ethical bounds.
Where a great leader is appreciated most, is in managing the people on the board. Sharing the floor so all directors and members can put forward their views and opinions, keeping the process democratic and making everyone feel included.
The ORIC article mentioned earlier, showed some great leadership from the Yagbani Aboriginal Corporation directors by inviting their new financial consultant to join their meeting on Goulburn Island. They felt it important to meet and help develop a mutual understanding and set expectations. Working remotely, this introduction to the organisation, staff and local residents gives the financial consultant a valuable perspective too helping better understand the essence of how things work on the island.
The Money Story
To move an organisation forward, decisions must be made at the board table. This is important to reach short and long term strategic goals. Good information and data are the crux of good decision-making. Board reports should provide members with a view of what has happened and where the funds are going to be in the future.
What reports to include
Here are some suggestions of what financials should be tabled:
- Profit and Loss Statement
- Balance Sheet (ideally with a comparison to the same time last year or the beginning of the year)
- Cashflow Forecast (min. 3 months but 12-months is better)
- Budget vs Actuals comparison
- Overview of various programs in progress
How numbers turn into visual stories
As board members come from various walks of life, not everyone is a financial genius. The tip here is to keep the reports at a summary level to provide an overview. Delivering some graphical reports helps the non-accountants at the table to grasp the essence of the story.
There a various of ways to make that visual difference. For example, here is an Unspent Budget Report which is summarised with the key information easily at hand:
- Consolidated figures across 7 programs (some organisation run sub-programs of the main funding programs, so combining these figures into one will give that nice overview).
- Making the comparison of Actuals (what’s real in the accounting system) to the Board-approved Budget clearly visible is very important.
- This report goes one step further and shows the Unspent $-value as well as the Spent % plus any variances over $300 are highlighted.
Graphs and charts are another really easy way to turning numbers into picture stories.
- This chart here focuses on income only
- The various income streams are stacked in different colours.
- Not only does the director reading this report see there is an upward trend, one can easily make out where the income is coming from. This helps identify which parts of the business are worth doing and make decisions around where to allocate resources.
There is some great help available to organise and run great board meetings. For aboriginal corporations, the CATSI Fact Sheets are a great starting point. Our Community and the Institute of Community Directors of Australia (ICDA) offer some great resources from help sheets to tools and articles.