Monday, September 28, 2009

How much is too much when it comes to your meeting minutes?

Do you believe that minutes from your board and membership meetings should be a verbatim rendering of what took place and who said what? Does your secretary or other scribe try furiously to keep up or do you simply tape the meetings and transcribe them later?

In fact, minutes from board or membership meetings should be much simpler than you may realize. In their most basic format, minutes should reflect who was present and what was done not what was said.

The first paragraph of meeting minutes should contain the following:

1. Identify the type of meeting that was held (ie. regular or special, board, committee or membership);

2. The name of the association, the date, time and place;

3. If it's a board or committee meeting the names of the directors or committee members present and those who are absent. If it's a membership meeting the fact that a quorum was established;

4. A statement that minutes from the previous meeting were "read and approved" or "approved as corrected". The corrections themselves should be made in the minutes being corrected and not reflected or further described in the minutes of the current meeting.

The body of the minutes should reflect the text of the main motions that were made and whether or not the motion was adopted or defeated. Editorializing by the secretary or other scribe should be avoided. For example, it is not necessary to say that "Jack Smith gave an excellent report" when simply reporting that the Treasurer Jack Smith gave a report suffices. Any debate on motions should be reflected as just that...debate. It is not necessary to capture the "he said, she said" quality of the debate just that a debate ensued. Occasionally people stress that they "want the minutes to reflect..." to make sure their position is memorialized. In those instances, you can but don't have to make mention that Jack Smith asked that the minutes reflect his position against the pool renovation.

The last paragraph of the minutes should simply reflect when the meeting adjourned. Typically the secretary will send out a draft of the prior meetings' minutes in advance of the next meeting so directors have read them and are prepared to either correct them or adopt them at the next meeting. Of course, the less extraneous material in your minutes the easier time your directors will have reading and approving or correcting them.

The issue of whether or not to tape meetings comes up in terms of creating the minutes. If you are handling your minutes correctly, you do not need a tape to capture the material that needs to go in your minutes. Moreover, having a tape even after you have transcribed your minutes can and often does lead to unnecessary disputes that the transcription was not correct or complete enough. Keeping it simple in this regard can save headaches down the road.

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