By Kara Friesen, CCMBC staff
COVID-19 has changed everything. It’s forced us to be more creative, adjust our ways of working, and learn new skills. To maintain its charitable status, CCMBC abides by specific operating procedures like holding an AGM no more than six months from the end of the fiscal year, which meant that in 2020 we had to find new ways of conducting business. If you are like us, just getting the hang of online meetings, You may not even know where to begin. Here’s what we learned.
Know your bylaws and governance manual
As a not-for-profit organization, the church needs to follow specific guidelines outlined by CRA. Before planning and executing an online AGM, you need to familiarize yourself with legal requirements such as:
- Whether or not your bylaws state that you can hold an AGM online. You may need to amend your existing bylaws.
- How many weeks before the AGM date, you need to distribute notice of motions and agendas to your members.
- How many delegates are required to meet the quorum
- Registration deadline
- Inclusion of parliamentarians and ballot counters (if necessary)
- Crafting “Rules of Order” for your online gathering. Rules of order give members a process to follow and clarify expectations.
Online AGMs (or any large meeting) run well with a good tech team. When building your team, consider the following:
- Clear identification of roles and responsibilities
- One person (minimum) designated to manage online chat/Q&A.
- One contact person accessible to guests by phone.
- Separate people are managing event tech and troubleshooting as needed.
- Designate someone to oversee the documents/links to motions/on-screen material throughout the meeting.
- It’s not uncommon for internet connections to drop or technology to fail, usually at the least opportune time. Have back-up volunteers on stand-by and contingency plans in place in the event things go wrong.
Depending on your meeting size and requirements, you may want to have tech support in place for participants.
- Phone Support – Bitrix24, a toll-free number, or any tech team’s phone number are options.
- Website Help Desk – Tidio provides a live chat feature on your website, giving attendees immediate access to back-end tech support (your dedicated tech team). For more information on tech support services, click here.
- If there is a glitch in the technology or the virtual meeting drops, have a plan in place that addresses how to contact attendees.
If you need to count votes as part of your meeting, and you have a budget to spend on a paid solution, QuestionPro is an excellent option. Be sure to inquire about their not-for-profit rate. Zoom is a great option if purchasing additional software is not possible. For more details on how to set up virtual voting, click here.
Having your members register for the AGM not only gives you an early estimation of quorum, but it also gives you a line of communication to participants. Eventbrite is a solid online registration platform, and—if you are hosting an event that is free of charge to your members—it is free. For more information on how to handle registration, click here.
Depending on the size of your meeting, you may need to upgrade your Zoom account to a Large Meeting. Ensure that the specific settings you need are in place before starting the meeting. For a recommended list of settings for large Zoom calls, click here.
Set chat communication to one-way—from the host to the entire group—to post motions and share announcements. For more information on some basic Zoom etiquette, click here.
To enhance community, it is important to set an atmosphere that feels personal. Encouraging attendees to use real names and keep their videos on during the meeting is one way to do this.
Training and rehearsing
Before your virtual meeting begins, test all software and programs used and iron out any kinks. If voting is taking place, test the voting process with a group to ensure that all is working correctly, and everyone can vote.
We recommend you schedule a rehearsal the week before your event, where the tech team walks through important features and functions to aid those who are less familiar with the process. This is a great way for those who may not be as well-versed in technology to ask questions or receive step-by-step assistance.
Communication is crucial when hosting a virtual event, especially if this is a new platform for attendees. Remind attendees of what they can expect, important information they will need to log in, etc.
If meeting hosts and members of the production team are located in different places, establish a way to communicate during the meeting in case something goes wrong with the technology, or other matters that need addressing. For many of us, meeting online is not our first choice. Still, technology has given us a means of gathering in community during times of isolation. May God inspire creativity and ingenuity as you navigate uncharted online territory. Remember CCMBC is here to help. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.