Meetings: A POP Quiz
September 30, 2015

Summer is now just a memory. We miss the long, bright, and warm days. But perhaps most of all, we miss all of the unstructured and largely uncommitted days and weeks on our summer calendars.

In autumn, the days grow darker and shorter, the air becomes a bit cooler, and our commitments and engagements steadily increase. Nonprofit leaders, funders, and development directors are watching their calendars populate with important events, such as: board meetings, fundraising galas, funder meetings, committee meetings, client commitments, staff meetings, and breakfast/lunch and/or dinner meetings.  We watch in horror as our free time seems to disappear.  In addition to all of these meetings, there is also an avalanche of  “meeting requests” that we accept — even when it’s not quite clear what we are being invited to attend.

As our calendars fill, we wonder how well our time will be used, or if all these meetings are even necessary. As a consultant, my time is best spent fundraising, or coaching and building client or board capacity to fundraise, particularly in these last few critical months of the calendar year.

So we ask ourselves, are all these meetings necessary? 


The unequivocal answer is:  No, they are not. We must begin to scrutinize our meeting invitations, and become a bit more selective about how we are using our time. Don’t get me wrong. I love the challenges of my work. I love my clients. I even love well-run meetings. It’s hard not to admire an artfully executed meeting that is efficient, effective and accomplishes its intention economically.

But all too often, I am invited to sit through numerous poorly constructed and/or awkwardly facilitated meetings. Have you ever received a meeting request that simply informs you “Meeting Agenda: TBD.” Do you have re-occurring Standing Meetings that don’t seem to have a purpose (except perhaps to monopolize your time every Thursday morning from 10am to 11am)? Are you frustrated by meetings that don’t start on time because the person who called the meeting is late? Or what about meetings which run overtime from poor planning or poor facilitation?

These are my meeting pet peeves.

Development Directors and Executive Directors know this pain. There is simply not enough time left to pursue all of our fundraising opportunities effectively when we have to endure these poorly planned meetings! Makes me want to give the meeting planner a POP!  And I do. I POP them.

And sometimes they even thank me.

Let me explain: POP is an acronym for: Purpose, Outcomes, and Process. It’s a meeting strategy that was shared with me by someone I greatly respect, and who also felt frustrated by the poor use of his time. The use of these three little letters will help you gain much-needed clarity about a meeting’s chances for being effective.

When planning a meeting, you can use this strategy to ensure you have an articulated Purpose of the meeting, clear intentional Outcomes of the meeting, and a Process that will be in place to achieve the desired outcomes.  Before arranging a meeting, or accept an invitation to a meeting, be sure that you can answer this POP Quiz:

Why are we meeting?
Why is the meeting important to the organization or mission?
What type of meeting is this; Briefing, Problem-Solving, Motivational, Other?

What is the meeting intended to achieve?
What deliverables or outputs do we anticipate?
What decisions or agreements need to occur in the meeting?

Who leads the meeting and is responsible for guiding the group to outcomes?
Is everyone necessary to achieve the outcomes invited and available to attend?
What are the agenda items and the duration of the meeting?
Who is charged with recording next steps and any follow-up, if applicable?

If you are invited to meetings where these three elements are clear, it will likely be an effective meeting, and be a good use of your time.  Likewise, when you are planning a meeting, if you can answer these three POP Quiz questions, you are much more likely to have an effective meeting.

Call us to discuss your needs.

Because even the best organizations
sometimes need a little outside help.


solutions (2)





Finlay Consulting Services is a New York City-based fundraising and philanthropy practice that specializes in Strategic Planning, Grantmaking Impact Assessment, Revenue Diversification, Board Engagement and Governance, Leadership Performance Assessment, Executive Coaching, Corporate & Foundation Relations, Major Donor Stewardship, Planned Giving, Capacity Building Forums, Retreats, and Interim Leadership.
Finlay Consulting Services, All rights reserved.