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Begin with a Consent Agenda

Some boards feel compelled to discuss every item on the agenda, even routine reports received ahead of time by email. Every report and routine item on the agenda does not deserve equal deliberation. To save time, put all reports received ahead of time in an early agenda item called the consent agenda. This includes the ministry report, budget report, advancement report, and other routine information. If any of these items require additional discussion or board action, any board member can ask that it be removed from the consent agenda and placed on the regular agenda for further discussion. The rest of the reports can then be received with one motion and one vote.

The consent agenda requires that board members receive information ahead of time. This means CEOs and board chairs will need extra discipline to get information out earlier. It also requires that board members actually take time to read and study the ministry and financial reports they receive. Board members who prepare will have better questions and raise the quality of discussion while those who habitually arrive unprepared will have fewer opportunities to ask questions as they scan the reports for the first time during the meeting.

Some board chairs allow simple questions for clarification on any report and others allow no discussion at all ahead of the vote to accept to consent agenda. Either way, this is a best practice proven to save time and allow the board to deal with more important issues and stay focused on board work. Organizations of all kinds have adopted this best practice and use it near the beginning of every board meeting.

James C. Galvin, president of Galvin and Associates in Winfield, IL, is an organizational consultant dedicated to helping faith-based nonprofits achieve breakthroughs. Visit his website at  www.galvinandassociates.com or contact him directly at [email protected].

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