As schedules get busier and video conferencing software gets better, more church plant management teams are wondering, “Are virtual church board meetings legal?”
Remembering that I am not a lawyer and not qualified to dispense legal advice, let me simply point you to what I found in my own quest for answers:
Check Your State’s Statutes
The good news is that almost every state has made some provision for teleconferencing as a valid method of ‘attending’ a nonprofit board meeting. Check for your state’s statutes on this list. CAUTION: that list is from 1999 (for real!) but it links to most state websites or at least references the statute that you can double check for recent updates. Be sure to do that.
My great State of CA has it this way:
Directors may participate in a meeting through use of conference telephone, electronic video screen communication, or electronic transmission… Participation in a meeting through use of conference telephone or electronic video screen communication pursuant to this subdivision constitutes presence in person at that meeting as long as all directors participating in the meeting are able to hear one another…” CA Corporations Code Section 7211(6)
And they’ve offered guidelines for any other means not exactly described above:
- Each director participating in the meeting can communicate with all of the other directors concurrently
- Each director is provided the means of participating in all matters before the board, including… the capacity to [object] to a specific action to be taken by the corporation
Consider Amending Your Bylaws
But before you go holding virtual church board meetings, review your Bylaws to see if they specifically require attendance to be in person. And if your Bylaws are silent on the matter, consider amending them to specifically allow virtual church board meetings. You’d probably want to do that in advance of a virtual meeting; I for one wouldn’t want to amend the Bylaws to include the teleconference language during a teleconferenced meeting. Think about it.
And for the amendment itself, if it were my church, I’d find a way to parrot the CA statutes’ language in the amendment.
If you’re looking for a video conferencing tool, here are the top 3 that I’ve used based on price (free!) & quality. All 3 have apps for you computers and mobile devices:
- Skype – in 2015 they released free group video; I cannot find a published limit on participants but they cap the clock at 4 hours (as if!)
- Zoom – their freemium plan lets you have up to 50 people but caps the clock at 40 minutes
- Google Hangouts – last I used it, joining a meeting was a little confusing, but otherwise a great service that allows up to 10 people with no known time limit
Whichever platform you use, follow these helpful tips to have an awesome virtual church board meeting:
- Send out invitations with hyperlinks several days in advance
- Encourage everyone to download the software and do any signing up or logging in at least 3o minutes before the first use
- Send the hyperlink or call-in info again on the day of the meeting
- Get everyone to join from a quiet setting – coffee shops are participation killers
- Have everyone use earbuds or headphones to minimize the echo/feedback loop, or have everyone mute themselves when they’re not talking
…so that your meeting doesn’t go like this: