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to 2002 Archives
The Secretary of the Board
THE SECRETARY OF THE BOARD
Most community boards elect or appoint one member
to be the secretary of the group. That means that this person writes
the minutes of the board meetings. This is not an easy job. The secretary
has to be a careful listener so that no important actions of the board
go unrecorded. But the secretary is also a board member and needs to
contribute to the conversation; so the secretary must be able to listen,
write and talk and have the ability to shift gears quickly.
The most frequent error of secretaries is an urge to record everything
that is said at the meeting; but that is not necessary. The minutes
need to be a legal and historic record of decisions and actions, not
of the discussions that led to them; or to quote Robert's Rules of
Order, 5th edition, what is done not what is said. Below are some
hints that can help simplify the job.
- A title that includes the date of the meeting, the name of the organization
and the place the meeting was held.
- A first line that indicates the time the meeting was called to order
by the elected head of the organization (the President or occasionally
the Vice President in the President's absence).
- A list of the names of those present at the meeting, followed by
a list of those not present.
- Subsequent sections can follow the form of the agenda.
- REVIEW OF THE MINUTES OF THE LAST MEETING:
The previous meeting's minutes are either approved by the Board as
submitted or as amended at the meeting. If they are amended (i.e.
an error or omission is found), the language of the amendment(s) must
be included in the minutes.
- COMMITTEE REPORTS: It is helpful
for many reasons if committees submit written reports in advance.
These can then be referred to as attachments to the minutes and only
motions passed as a result of the committee report need to be recorded.
Unless there is a motion, committee reports need not be approved.
- MOTIONS: When a motion is made,
the name of the person making the motion is included in the minutes,
followed by the wording of the motion. Some boards use motion forms
and ask the mover of the motion to write one out and give it to the
secretary. This can be a helpful device. Also, it is helpful if motions
recorded in the minutes are in bold face so that they are easily seen.
- Any amendments to the motion are handled the same way, and amendments
in the order moved are voted on before the motion itself.
- Motions that are withdrawn are not included in the minutes.
- It isn't necessary to paraphrase all the debate that goes into
the discussion before a motion is voted on unless someone expressly
asks that the minutes show his/her comments. This usually happens
when someone senses he/she is in a minority and wants to record
- If someone on the board declares he/she has a conflict of interest
in the issue at hand and can neither discuss nor vote on the issue,
that name should also be shown in the minutes so that everyone
reading the minutes understands that the conflict was declared.
- When the motion is voted on, the minutes state the decision:
"The motion carried" or "The motion was defeated."
Abstentions from voting are only recorded when the abstainer requests
- ASSIGNMENTS, PLANS, APPOINTMENTS:
The minutes should record assignments made to board members and/or
staff during the meeting, plans that are made and any new members
appointed to committees. If a board member is to be appointed to serve
until the next election of members because someone has left the board,
this requires a motion and a vote on the part of the board.
- The minutes would then list any old or new business discussed that
was not specifically mentioned in the agenda and any decisions made
pertaining to them. Then the minutes should list the date, time and
place of the next meeting and the time the meeting was adjourned.
- Secretaries usually sign the minutes with the complimentary close
of "respectfully submitted," (name of secretary).
And all respect to the secretary who can clearly differentiate
between what was done at the meeting and what was said!
Jeanne H. Bradner
Jeanne H. Bradner is
an author, consultant, trainer and speaker on volunteerism, board development
and leadership. She is the author of three publications, Passionate
Volunteerism, The Board Member's Guide, A Beneficial Bestiary
and Leading Volunteers for Results: Building Communities Today.
She served as director of the Illinois Governor's Office of
Voluntary Action, Midwest Regional Director of ACTION, and Executive
Director of the Illinois Commission on Community Service. She is the
volunteer program specialist for Illinois' Harper College Volunteer
Send your comments and questions
Copyright 2002 by Nancy Macduff.
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