Preparing Board Packets without the Paper

By Dianne Gorvin
Director, BoardBook®

In the past few months, I’ve heard more and more customers say that although they are using a “paperless” product like BoardBook® Premier, they are not paperless. They still rely heavily on printing board agenda packets and meeting materials for their committees. Perhaps those committees find it hard to transition from traditional paper meetings. Or perhaps they don’t really see the benefits of going paperless. They may wonder: Is the cost of going paperless as beneficial as people say, and what is the true cost to my organization?

Of course, there are many reasons other than cost to go paperless, such as being environmentally responsible and decreasing your carbon footprint. But when we address some of the cost issues, we also address some of the environmental issues as well.

The numbers prove the point

Let’s look at some real-life examples from our BoardBook agenda preparation customers. In 2018–19, the average customers produced and prepared packets 24 times during the year. The average page count per packet was 88, not including the agenda or cover sheet. Actually, many of our customers tell me that they wish their packets were 88 pages—but in reality, they are closer to 200 or 300 pages! With the average board consisting of 7 to 10 board members, that’s a lot of paper. 

Costs for paper don’t vary much unless you’re printing a lot of items on special paper or using odd sizes. Average office paper costs between .01 and .03 cents per sheet. The average cost for a sheet of printed paper is .03 to .05 cents. (If you purchase through a cooperative, such as BuyBoard®, you may be getting prices at the lower end of the fee schedule.) Premium paper or color printing can increase this price a great deal. In addition, using legal paper increases your paper and printing costs as there is more printable surface area.

Let’s revisit my customer example, printing 8–10 packets that are 88 pages each, twice a month.

  # of pages # of packets # of meetings/year Cost per page Total pages Total print cost
Average Example/Lowest Costs 88 8 24 0.03 16,896 $507
Average Example/Highest Costs 88 10 24 0.05 21,120 $1,056
High Example/Lowest Costs 250 8 24 0.03 48,000 $1,440
High Example/Highest Costs 250 10 24 0.05 60,000 $3,000

Associated costs

Beyond the cost of the paper alone, you must also factor in the costs associated with printing, assembling, delivery, and disposal.

For example, the cost for a sheet of printed paper depends a lot on the efficiency and cost of your printer or toner cartridges. The instruction manual for your printer should provide you an approximate average number of prints available from the printer cartridge. If you use one printed version and make copies from this, your copier instructions should provide you with copy quotas per toner cartridge. Either way, you are incurring costs you may not have budgeted. 

As your machine ages and requires maintenance or additional parts, this increases the average cost of a printed page over time. A printer that cost you $700 could cost thousands of dollars to run over several years. 

And then there’s the labor

Likely even more egregious than the cost of paper and printing is the fact that printing requires staff to complete manual tasks, despite the fact that a paperless solution is available.

Imagine compiling and manually typing the agenda and minutes, then printing 10–20 copies of a packet that could be hundreds of pages long. This exhausting, labor-intensive process is often complicated by last-minute changes and the need to alter the agenda or repaginate it. Changes sometimes occur after hundreds of pages have been printed for the meeting. The packets have to be taken apart for the revisions to be inserted. Should you be responsible for more than one committee, these figures will double or triple.

It’s difficult to determine the actual amount of time used to create an agenda packet, as this would be contingent on the size of the packet and whether the packet is from a template or customized. Templates, which can be replicated each committee meeting with items that can be dropped and dragged into place, save considerable time.

Even with this method, it could take several hours to compile all the agenda items and attachments. Board meetings often involve coordination from a variety of sources: the community, superintendent, board members, RFP vendors, etc. Coordinating and following up with these individuals requires a “working” agenda that is added to in the days leading up to the meeting.

Staff are often responsible for printing, copying, sorting, hole punching, binding, scanning, and organizing packets. Our inquiries show that the use of tabs, dividers, and covers are often required. This is time consuming for any organization, and even harder for small departments. Don’t forget that supplies used for these functions, such as card stock, notebooks, binding materials, or graphics, will increase the cost of the packet.

Even more costs to consider

If you’re printing your packets, they have to be manually delivered. We hear that some of our customers use a variety of methods to deliver board member packets, including personal delivery by staff members or delivery by the post office, UPS, a hired delivery person, or school courier. One customer indicated it took them more than two hours to deliver the packets each meeting due to the rural nature of their district. This time would be extended if they got into a lengthy discussion with the board member about the contents of the packet! 

Other costs can include recycling or shredding. Usually shredding is priced by the pound. As an example, an 88-page packet might weigh about 1.2 pounds (considering a 60- to 67-gram weight for each piece of paper). If you’re conducting two meetings a month with packets of this size, that’s approximately 288 pounds of paper. Average shredding costs can vary from $40 to $100 a bin.

A better solution

Compiling and preparing packets the old way can be costly for your district and painful for staff members. We recommend using a paperless system such as BoardBook Premier as it is intended: without paper. By cutting your reliance on paper packets, you will increase your efficiencies, streamline your processes, and save money—money that can be used for projects of greater importance, like educational programs, facility repairs, transportation, and school safety.