Why are nonprofit meetings at the most inconvenient times?

I have one really big annoyance when it comes to nonprofits and community work.
All meetings seem to happen at the most inconvenient times. They expect community leaders to come together usually for times more than an hour, not including commute time, and usually schedule the meetings around mid-morning, or mid-afternoon.
And that really annoys the hell out of me.
Why? Because I like to stay involved. No, I don’t like to go to meetings that don’t accomplish anything. In fact, if you have me go to one, and it doesn’t accomplish anything, I refuse to go to another. There’s precious time in the day for this guy, and I got a lot better things to do. But in reality, my job, and I’d imagine that most jobs don’t let you just prance out whenever to “take a meeting”.
Who the heck has time to take off between nine and eleven? That’s the entire morning. So basically, community efforts force me to take vacation for half the day. And that just sucks. Believe you me, if it goes nowhere, they’ll regret losing this outside-the-box thinker.

  • Darkmoon, what you say is often true. It is too bad because I believe that we need our nonprofits to maintain or achieve the quality of community life we want.
    What is the problem here? Many groups have a poor sense of purpose. What is the nonprofit really expected to achieve and exactly what must happen in this meeting to accomplish that result? The cookies and coffee are nice, but I could have read (or ignored) an email just to hear updates on what participants are doing. It is easy and cheap to set up a forum (such as phpbb) to run asynchronous meetings. Look at the behavior of the group. Are they really holding a meeting, or is it mainly a social gathering?
    The next problem has to do with the process. If your nonprofit does not know how to facilitate group processes, or achieve community consensus, or otherwise overcome whatever obstacles are ahead, you are going to feel like your time is being wasted. Usually this is a failure of the leadership. In this case, since you are the one who has recognized that your time is not being used effectively, it is time for you to think this through and assume a leadership role. You don’t need to be appointed or elected to do this. When you show people how to move forward effectively, they will follow.
    Best wishes.

  • Darkmoon, what you say is often true. It is too bad because I believe that we need our nonprofits to maintain or achieve the quality of community life we want.
    What is the problem here? Many groups have a poor sense of purpose. What is the nonprofit really expected to achieve and exactly what must happen in this meeting to accomplish that result? The cookies and coffee are nice, but I could have read (or ignored) an email just to hear updates on what participants are doing. It is easy and cheap to set up a forum (such as phpbb) to run asynchronous meetings. Look at the behavior of the group. Are they really holding a meeting, or is it mainly a social gathering?
    The next problem has to do with the process. If your nonprofit does not know how to facilitate group processes, or achieve community consensus, or otherwise overcome whatever obstacles are ahead, you are going to feel like your time is being wasted. Usually this is a failure of the leadership. In this case, since you are the one who has recognized that your time is not being used effectively, it is time for you to think this through and assume a leadership role. You don’t need to be appointed or elected to do this. When you show people how to move forward effectively, they will follow.
    Best wishes.

  • Robert,
    Thank you for responding. I agree. Unfortunately, there is a giant disconnect between those that have a livelihood in the nonprofit realm, and those that work in the corporate world, but still wish to participate.
    At least in my personal experiences, it’s not so much the issues with assuming the leadership position, as feeling that time is wasted because those in the corporate arena only have so much time to give.
    If I assumed a leadership role, it would mean stepping on toes of others. And/or taking over a project. Which isn’t bad persay, but when you’re brought on in a advisory position, then you don’t really have the authority to do as you wish.
    It won’t stop me from participating, but I’m actually pleased to know that I’m not the only one that sees this happening.

  • darkmoon

    Robert,
    Thank you for responding. I agree. Unfortunately, there is a giant disconnect between those that have a livelihood in the nonprofit realm, and those that work in the corporate world, but still wish to participate.
    At least in my personal experiences, it’s not so much the issues with assuming the leadership position, as feeling that time is wasted because those in the corporate arena only have so much time to give.
    If I assumed a leadership role, it would mean stepping on toes of others. And/or taking over a project. Which isn’t bad persay, but when you’re brought on in a advisory position, then you don’t really have the authority to do as you wish.
    It won’t stop me from participating, but I’m actually pleased to know that I’m not the only one that sees this happening.

  • The part of your original essay that caught my attention was, “if it goes nowhere, they’ll regret losing this outside-the-box thinker.”
    If the other folks in the room are employed by related nonprofits, they are not taking time off from work to be there, they will see this time as part of their job. As a consultant, I am often in your shoes. If I attend such a meeting, I cannot bill for my time. Our employers (in my case that is me) recognized that my time is valuable.
    I teach that volunteer time is not free. Nor are ‘free’ meeting spaces, ‘free’ office supplies, and ‘free’ food. When these are offered, those receiving should recognize the huge value of the gift.
    If they want or need your participation, it is not unreasonable to schedule meetings at times that work for you. It may be possible to achieve your input without having you in the room.
    You will not be stepping on toes to make this known, you will be ensuring that they create an environment that encourages input from people like yourself. Before you leave, you owe it to them to make these issues clear to them.

  • The part of your original essay that caught my attention was, “if it goes nowhere, they’ll regret losing this outside-the-box thinker.”
    If the other folks in the room are employed by related nonprofits, they are not taking time off from work to be there, they will see this time as part of their job. As a consultant, I am often in your shoes. If I attend such a meeting, I cannot bill for my time. Our employers (in my case that is me) recognized that my time is valuable.
    I teach that volunteer time is not free. Nor are ‘free’ meeting spaces, ‘free’ office supplies, and ‘free’ food. When these are offered, those receiving should recognize the huge value of the gift.
    If they want or need your participation, it is not unreasonable to schedule meetings at times that work for you. It may be possible to achieve your input without having you in the room.
    You will not be stepping on toes to make this known, you will be ensuring that they create an environment that encourages input from people like yourself. Before you leave, you owe it to them to make these issues clear to them.