I have, in the past, been on the board of trustees of a local non-profit organization. There is a good chance I will be asked again in the future, and there's a problem I'd like to be able to solve when that happens.
Most of the organization's activities have a strong social component,1 and this finds its way into board meetings too. For example, part of each meeting is dedicated to "good & welfare", where everybody is encouraged to share good news from their personal lives. The leaders of the organization want everybody to feel engaged (particularly as we're all volunteers), so they are also very reluctant to cut off discussion that has gone somewhat astray of the meeting agenda. Also because of this desire for engagement, the board is about twice as big as it needs to be. (A few years ago I was on the bylaws committee and made a failed attempt to shrink it.)
The result of all this is that if we have 45 minutes' worth of business to address, the meeting might run to two hours or more. Or, conversely, a two-hour meeting can only address about 45 minutes' worth of material because of all the other stuff. Nominally we follow Robert's Rules of Order, but in practice it's much more casual.
It appears that for some members, board meetings are major social outlets -- they seem not to have active social lives otherwise, often they're retired (so they don't have work to provide human interaction), and they use these meetings for that purpose. (Mind, the organization does offer many other social opportunities.) As a younger person who does have an active professional and personal life, I find these meetings very frustrating, enough that I might well turn down another nomination even though I can bring valuable skills to the board. That makes me sad because I care about the organization and want to help lead it. But I don't want to feel like my time is being wasted.
When I was last on the board I tried talking with the president (who runs meetings) and some other officers. I explained that our approach to meetings made me feel un-valued, the opposite of what they're trying to accomplish, and I made specific suggestions about segregating business and social parts of the meetings (business first, and then invite people to stick around for social stuff and maybe even bring out coffee and cookies). They didn't say no but they also didn't change anything. I haven't tried to "assemble a mob" (lobbying other board members) because of how that might appear, but maybe I should have.
Is there anything I can do to change the culture of our board meetings should I find myself on it again? Should I be trying to work through the leaders or through the board members? Should I attend but bring something else to do (visibly, perhaps) during the parts of the meeting I consider unproductive? Is there something else I can do? Or is this likely to be intractable and I should cut my losses and stay away?
1 The existing social activities are for the whole community. They include inexpensive monthly catered dinners for the whole family, potlucks a few times a year (again for everybody), "social hour" after other twice-weekly activities (cookies and coffee/tea/lemonade), Sunday-morning brunches with guest speakers about six times a year, evening lectures or entertainment several times a year, daytime outings (sightseeing, theatre, etc) a few times a year targeted at older members, and several social-action activities every month (visiting nursing homes, gathering/sorting/packaging materials for the needy, political activities, etc). If you haven't guessed, it's a religious community.