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How to Write Effective Board Decision Papers

Board decision papers are an essential instrument to help directors make informed decisions. They are prepared to provide the information and analysis required by a board to review and approve any proposed decision. They can be used to discuss major capital investments and subsequent revenue implications, acquisitions/dispositions, introducing new services or changing existing ones, organisational structure changes, budgetary decisions, granting contracts or joint ventures etc.

The best papers for boards start by stating their goal information only, discussion only or seeking the board’s opinion – and clearly state the board’s recommendation. The document should include an outline of the issue and a summary of the executive (ideally less than one paragraph or four lines), and a detailed explanation that covers strategy, financial information, and the risks. It should also provide an overview of the options and the reasons why this strategy is best for the business.

A number of board development experts and chairs we interviewed recommended that executive teams utilize a decision-focussed format for their documents. This is when the headings on the paper reflect the decision that will be taken – rather than organising them by theme. this helps boards make better use of information and encourages them to think about how they could approach each problem.

When writing board papers Be sure to edit the content until you feel it is succinct and clear. It is always useful to step away from your draft over night and go it over again the nonprofit board for a fundraising campaign next morning with a fresh set of eyes.

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