If your nonprofit board wants to maximize your board meeting time as much as possible, one way to create efficiency is to begin utilizing a consent agenda. Some boards prefer to call it a consent calendar. According to best practices for nonprofit boards, directors should be spending the bulk of their meeting time on strategic planning. It goes without saying that nonprofit boards also want to dedicate a fair share of their board meeting time to discussing fundraising efforts.
A consent agenda is a useful tool for handling routine agenda items that the board needs to note in the meeting minutes as a matter of protocol. A consent agenda gives boards the ability to consolidate agenda items into one item for the board to vote on. Managing multiple agenda items at once frees up the board’s time for planning, oversight and other important matters.
What Items Can Nonprofits Include on a Consent Agenda?
Agenda-preparers can include lots of different types of agenda items on the consent agenda. For maximum efficiency, think outside the box and include as many items as you can. To know whether an item is appropriate for a consent agenda, simply ask yourself two questions:
- Is it a routine matter that the board discusses or approves at every meeting?
- Is it a matter that the board has discussed in the past and on which there is obvious group consensus?
It’s common for nonprofit boards to include the previous meeting minutes, financial reports and the executive director summary in the consent agenda, but you don’t have to stop there. Boards may also consider adding program or committee reports, staff and volunteer appointments, committee chair and committee appointments, and other correspondence that doesn’t require action.
The agenda-preparer has a couple of options on how to incorporate the consent agenda with the main agenda. They can list the items on the main agenda under the Consent Agenda heading. Alternatively, they can add the consent agenda to the board packet as a separate document.
The important thing to consider is that board members need to receive any supporting materials listed in the consent agenda in plenty of time to review them before the meeting.
Can Boards Remove One or More Items From the Consent Agenda?
Board members should be aware that the consent agenda isn’t carved in stone. In fact, it’s a good practice for board members to review the items in the consent agenda prior to the meeting. It’s also a good practice for the board chair to ask the board if they want to remove any of the items from the consent agenda before asking the members to approve it.
A board member can ask for any of the items on the consent agenda to be removed and the item or items in questions must be removed, regardless of the reason for the request. A board director may decide that they want to make a query on an item, or give it further time for discussion, or perhaps remove it from the consent agenda to vote against it.
When a board director requests to pull an item from the consent agenda, the board chair has the option of handling it a couple of ways. The chair can move the item to another part of the agenda or make the decision to discuss it right away.
There is one other point of order for the board chair to be aware of if a board director requests to remove an item from the consent agenda. The chair should read the rest of the consent items out loud before asking the board to approve the consent agenda. The minute-taker should also be alert and be sure to note the item’s removal from the consent agenda in the meeting minutes.
The chair can then ask for a motion, second and vote to pass the consent agenda, or simply ask for any objections. Hearing no objections, the chair can announce that they adopted the consent agenda by unanimous consent.
Where Does the Consent Agenda Fall in the Order of the Agenda?
The first action is the call to order, which is the board chair’s responsibility. Typically, the chair will welcome everyone, introduce any guests and ask for any other introductions after that. The next item on the agenda should be the consent agenda. It will be placed before “Unfinished Business.”
Here is a good example of a sample agenda that has a consent agenda embedded into the regular agenda.
The Consent Agenda Is a Good Board Development Topic
Best practices for good corporate governance require nonprofit board directors to continually work on their board skills. The topic of the consent agenda is an excellent choice of a topic where board directors can improve their knowledge and expertise.
Board directors who don’t know the proper protocol for the consent agenda can cause unintentional problems. A common problem is when board directors fail to read all of the documents associated with the consent agenda. Not understanding how the consent agenda works isn’t a viable excuse for board members not doing their due diligence in decision-making and is a violation of their fiduciary duties. This can be problematic because agenda preparers often include financial reports in the consent agenda.
The consent agenda should never become a rote item that boards pass over with little thought or meaning. Board directors need to be careful about giving in to groupthink and hold each other accountable for managing board matters responsibly.
Consent Agenda and Other Tools to Create Efficiency
Nonprofit board agendas can often be jam-packed with items for approval and discussion. Some nonprofit boards find that they can save up to 30 minutes of meeting time by using a consent agenda. Boards should also be looking for other ways to increase the number of meeting minutes they can spend on strategic planning.
If you haven’t considered it before, a board portal is another excellent way to create board efficiency. The cost of the software pays nonprofit boards back by driving numerous processes that create board effectiveness and efficiency.
It’s ultra-easy to create board books and agendas using BoardEffect’s board portal software. The software also aids in scheduling, managing tasks and providing unlimited storage for documents in the cloud. Board portals support board orientation and development and provide a secure platform for collaboration and discussions. Increase your board’s efficiency by using a consent agenda and a board portal system by BoardEffect.