Every scheduled meeting of an organisation or committee is an important occasion. Such meetings make decisions that determine the daily business of the organisation. Was an issue discussed? Was it approved? Why and how was it approved? Who was present? The answers and outcomes of such questions as these must be recorded as minutes of the meeting. Minutes are an important decision-making record, so it is essential that the following points be considered…
1. Be aware of what minutes must be kept.
Minutes should be kept of all formal meetings of your organisation – of the governing board, the annual general meeting, any special general meeting, and any vital sub-committee meetings.
2. Know what the minutes must record.
The minutes should clearly indicate the following:
- the nature of the meeting – governing, annual, special, or sub-committee
- the place, date, and time of the meeting
- the name of the chairperson and the names of those present (for large meetings, names are unnecessary, but the number of people present should be recorded).
- the names of those who sent their apologies for being absent
- the time the meeting was begun
- the business of the meeting in chronological order – perhaps including:
- a review and acceptance of the minutes of the previous meeting
- a review and acceptance of the treasurer’s report, including the passing of accounts for payment
- a consideration of correspondence received and sent since the last meeting
- any business arising from the previous minutes
- any general business as listed on the agenda
- the place, time, and date of the next meeting
- the time the meeting closed.
The use of sub-headings and a numbering system for each item will allow for ready reference later. To make the minutes complete, add a copy of the notice of meeting, a copy of the treasurer’s report, and the agenda issued prior to the meeting.
3. Be precise in recording decisions made.
During the meeting, participants will make proposals in the form of motions that, through the process of voting, will be accepted or rejected. For each item of business considered, the minutes must record this important procedure:
- the precise wording of the motion
- who submitted it
- a summary of discussion on the motion
- who moved it
- who seconded it
- whether it was carried or lost, and the result of the vote.
4. Record contentious matters carefully.
For those issues characterised by dissension and vigorous debate, it is important that the differing points of view be minuted – objectively and accurately. The minute writer must be careful not to reveal his or her own views, and must ensure that the views of all speakers are given appropriate space. The chairperson should later check that a balanced account of the issue has been recorded.
5. Write-up minutes promptly.
Unless the secretary can take short-hand, a rough copy of proceedings should be made during the meeting. As soon as possible afterwards, while memory is fresh, the minutes should be written out clearly, typed, or recorded on a word-processor.
6. Distribute the minutes appropriately.
The chairperson should see a copy of the typed minutes before they are finalised to ensure that they are accurate. A master copy is then placed in a minute book or minutes file. Each committee member should have a copy of the minutes at or before the next meeting. Minutes, other than those of an annual general meeting, are not open to public viewing. Only AGM minutes are normally available on request for wider scrutiny.
7. Know the procedures for confirming minutes.
The first business of any meeting should be to confirm the minutes of the previous meeting as an accurate and true record of that meeting. If the participants have no objections, the minutes are confirmed and may be officially signed as a true record by the chairperson and secretary. Any objections or corrections should be discussed, agreed to, written in, and initialled by the chairperson before the document is signed.
If any business recorded in confirmed minutes is reopened at a later meeting and members feel that, in the light of further information or changed circumstances, the previous resolution should be changed, they can do so only if the meeting accepts and approves a resolution rescinding the earlier decision.
8. Maintain a high standard.
The key to providing a set of high-quality minutes is to make them accurate and concise, containing only facts (not the writer’s views). Minutes should be set out so that they can be referred to easily and quickly when necessary. A good secretary keeps good minutes. Accurate, well-kept minutes are a sign of a well-managed organisation.