If your Board wants to save time and streamline its meetings, consider using a “consent agenda,” explains Rhonda Scharf
A consent agenda is a group of routine discussion points wrapped into one single agenda item. Robert’s Rules of Order also calls it a “consent calendar.” Having many discussion points grouped together allows the group to approve them all in one action, rather than having to approve them individually.
What’s in a Consent Agenda?
Typically, the routine, procedural, and recurring items that do not require debate or discussion are included in a consent agenda.
Your consent agenda could include:
- approval of minutes of previous meetings
- approvals for actions completed at the sub-committee level
- routine topics
- non-controversial issues that don’t need debate or discussion
- departmental reports and updates
- committee appointments
- for information only reports
- dates of future meetings
- any routine item whose approval is likely to pass without debate and that would otherwise take up valuable discussion time
Instead of having ten separate votes to approve ten different items, when they are all listed in the consent agenda, they can all be approved with just one vote.
As you can imagine, if you want your Board to do a mass approval without discussion or debate on individual items, the Board members must have all the information they need in advance to make an informed decision. Documentation and backup materials need to be part of the package that members receive before the meeting (i.e., the agenda packet).
Members must be allowed to ask questions and have them answered before they vote on the consent agenda. When the consent agenda is brought forward, the Chair will typically ask if anyone wants to discuss any specific items.
If a member wants an in-depth discussion or debate on an item on the consent agenda, they can request that it be removed from the consent agenda and placed on the main agenda as a standalone item. If it’s a simple question with an easy answer and no discussion, the item can remain on the consent agenda for bulk approval.
To begin using a consent agenda in your organization, you will most likely need to approve a motion to adopt the consent agenda for future meetings. Motions change by-laws, policies, and procedures. You will be changing the procedure by adopting a consent agenda; therefore, a motion will be required.
Typically, the Board would craft a policy on what may or may not be included in the consent agenda. For instance, you wouldn’t normally include any item that requires debate and deliberation.
A typical motion for the establishment of a consent agenda is, “I move that we accept the consent agenda as presented.”
Here’s how it might look on your meeting agenda.
2. Consent Agenda
a. July 20, 2022 meeting minutes
b. Executive Director’s report
c. Social Committee’s report
d. Next meeting date
3. Summer Picnic
4. Vacation Policy
5. New Business
A consent agenda is an effective tool to streamline your Board meetings. It is important that the members take responsibility for reviewing the items prior to the meeting, but once everyone gets the hang of using a consent agenda, you’ll find that routine items are dealt with more swiftly, leaving valuable time for the discussion of more important items.