top of page
  • Pat Libby

The 3 step rule to holding a productive meeting

Updated: Mar 26, 2021

I have yet to meet a nonprofit organization that isn’t concerned about its finances.​

And since the sector is largely human resource dependent (i.e., for most nonprofits, the biggest share of the budget is employee salary and benefits), money spent often translates into staff time.

I was reminded of this recently when I was hired to analyze the staffing needs of a large human service agency.

The biggest take away was waaaaaaaaaay too much time was being spent in unproductive meetings (which to be fair, tracks with private sector trends).

So, how to solve this?

Stick to the golden rule:

  • Meetings must have a purpose. Sharing information is not a purpose.

  • Meeting agendas must be curated, i.e., “carefully chosen and thoughtfully organized or presented.”

Use my 3-question framework to determine the agenda (It will take practice, but I guarantee you'll be happier and more efficient.)

1. What actions or decisions do we need to take or make?

2. What information do we need to have in order to make the decision/take the action (and do we have it)?

3. Who at the agency needs to be part of the decision-making/action-taking process?

Hint: If you can’t answer these questions, postpone the meeting.

Note: ONLY those people who can move the agenda forward should attend. Of course, if there are other people within the agency or in the greater community who will be affected by these decisions, determine a process for getting their input prior.

The meeting itself should follow my 4-question format:

1. What actions or decisions do we need to take or make today?

2. What decision was made?

If a decision was not made, what additional information do we need to make this decision? When will we have that info?

3. Assuming a decision has been made, who is going to implement it?

4. What is the roll out going to look like (cost, time line, next steps etc.)?

While, it may take a village to raise a child, it takes discipline to organize and conduct productive meetings.

Practice makes perfect.

Interested in reading more on this topic? Check out "How to Break the Vicious Cycle of Stupid Meetings" and download this handy infographic to share with your colleagues.


Pat Libby is a San Diego based management consultant to nonprofits and philanthropies. She has served as an academic, senior executive, board member, and consultant to innumerable nonprofit organizations and foundations for more than three decades.

Get in touch for more information, or to schedule a free consultation.

bottom of page