Using a consent agenda can make your board meetings shorter and more productive.

It achieves this by combining routine meeting motions into one motion.

If every board member does his/her homework it is possible to have a single motion that approves:

  • Meeting agenda
  • Minutes of the previous meeting
  • Reports from committees, the chair, and the executive director/staff (assuming that there is an executive director and/or staff)

Once housekeeping matters that do not require explanation are quickly handled as a matter of routine, the board has the time to focus on complex issues that do require discussion.

The devil is, as always, in the details. A consent agenda approach requires the following to be effective:

1. Everyone must read the materials distributed in advance of the meeting.

2. To ensure that there is enough time for board members to ask questions in advance of the meeting, materials must be distributed well in advance of the meeting.

(If there are errors in the minutes, for example, then the secretary/person responsible for the minutes has to have time to make corrections and then distribute the revised minutes.)

3. All reports have to be submitted in writing, again with enough time for questions to be asked and the answer and any additional information to be distributed.

4. General information, reports and documents that do not require any action are forwarded to the secretary for distribution.

However there a number of reports that should not be included in a consent agenda, because they by their nature require discussion:

  • Treasurer’s report;
  • Auditor’s/external accountant’s report and report of the audit committee; and
  • Decisions of the executive committee (assuming there is an executive committee).

5. Requests to add new business to an agenda have to be submitted in advance to the chair, with the chair determining how to respond.
Requests for new business could be accepted and the date for discussion assigned by the chair, assigned to a committee, or rejected.

6. Motion to approve the consent agenda is made and seconded; the motion names all of the items to be voted upon.
The chair asks if there is any discussion of the motion.

Board members have the obligation and opportunity to raise questions and concerns, for example, for the vote:

  • The board member who made a request for an item to be included as new business can ask that agenda to be approved be amended to include his/her request;
  • If the answer to a question about a report is not satisfactory, then discussion of the report can be added to the agenda.

The chair asks for a vote on each request to modify the meeting’s agenda.[1]

The chair asks for a vote on the acceptance of the consent agenda, which may not/or may have been modified as a result of the above request(s) and/or question(s).

7. The board then moves on the strategic/non-routine item(s) on the agenda.

“The main purpose of a consent agenda is to liberate board meetings from administrative details, repetitious discussions, and misdirected attention. The main benefit is better governance.”[2]

If your board holds any of its meetings by way of conference call, then you can find additional tactics to make your meetings by reading our March 6, 2014 article Rules for Productive Conference Calls

[1] Good governance/parliamentary procedure require “voting”. This means that a majority vote is required.
[2] (retrieved September 16, 2014).