Useless Meetings Packing Your Schedule? How a Strategic Plan Can Help

by | Oct 6, 2022 | Strategic Planning

If there’s one thing most of us have experienced, it’s useless meetings. That’s why a recent Bloomberg headline about the true cost of useless meetings caught our eye. New research shows that:

Unnecessary meetings are a $100 million mistake at big companies, according to a new survey that shows workers probably don’t need to be in nearly a third of the appointments they attend.

$100 million in wasted resources for a single company is an eye-popping figure. And while the research focused on large organizations, it’s certain that nonprofits and small businesses are also facing significant losses each year. That’s a lot of time and money that could be spent in much better ways.

So, how can you make sure your meetings are smart, strategic and productive?

Start with your strategic plan.


Leverage Your Strategic Plan to Reduce Useless Meetings

According to the survey data:

Employees spend about 18 hours a week on average in meetings, and they only decline 14% of invites even though they’d prefer to back out of 31% of them. Reluctantly going to noncritical meetings wastes about $25,000 per employee annually.

As Funding for Good has shared before, we consider strategic planning to be the starting point for ongoing strategic thinking. That means approaching your decision-making—whether it’s major investments or day-to-day priorities—with a strategic lens that’s grounded in what your nonprofit is trying to achieve.

With your strategic plan in hand, here are few tips to better prioritize your schedule and avoid useless meetings:

  • Assess recurring meeting schedules, starting with your management team. Identify which meetings are helping you actively advance your nonprofit’s mission, and which are not. Then ask managers to do the same with their departments.
  • Clarify department and staff roles. With greater clarity, ask what the desired outcome of each meeting is and who needs to participate in order to achieve that outcome.
  • Shift your meeting culture. Make it okay for staff and board members to ask questions about meetings before they happen. What is the agenda? What is each participant expected to contribute or take away from the meeting? According to research, employees—particularly women—automatically accept meetings because they feel pressured by workplace norms.


Invest in Meeting Facilitation Training

Today, many of us have a mix of virtual, in-person, and hybrid meetings. Yet few of us are trained in effective meeting facilitation—much less how to juggle the different types of meetings we may be leading.

Whether we like it or not, running effective meetings is a critical part of nonprofit leadership.

While investing in a leadership training program that includes meeting facilitation may not seem like it’s in your nonprofit’s budget, it’s clear that the cost of ineffective meetings is far, far higher than many of us realized.


Bring in an Outside Facilitator for Critical Conversations

For the most critical conversations—whether it’s strategic planning, board development, or an annual board and staff retreat—we recommend bringing in a facilitator.

A good facilitator will bring years of experience helping groups get the most out of their time together. Whether it’s developing an agenda, framing questions and conversation, or guiding your team toward consensus, a skilled facilitator will ensure that the time spent in a meeting or retreat is worth it.

At the end of the day, we can’t avoid meetings. But we can make them better.

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