Robert’s Rules of Order for Adjournment: When and How to End a Meeting
All nonprofit board members should know the proper protocols for running meetings, including Robert’s Rules of Order for adjournment.
When board discussions are lively, it can be hard to know when to shut a meeting down but don’t fret; Robert’s Rules for adjournment can guide the way. Robert’s Rules are generally accepted rules and practices for board meetings and other assemblies. The rules date back to the 1500s, and they’re still in use in boardrooms across the world today. Robert’s Rules of Order are designed to maintain good decorum in board meetings, ensure the will of the majority, and facilitate order.
What Is a Privileged Motion?
Before getting into Robert’s Rules for adjournment, it helps to understand the meaning of a privileged motion.
A privileged motion is a motion that supersedes ordinary business. Board members make privileged motions over urgent matters or have great importance. A board member can make a privileged motion while other business is pending.
Common privileged motions include:
- Fixing the time to adjourn
- Motioning to adjourn
- Motioning to take a recess
- Raising questions of privilege
All privileged motions are not debatable, which means the board chair must immediately call for a vote on the privileged motion.
Does Adjournment Require a Motion?
As a matter of course, when the agenda has been completed, the following three steps would naturally occur:
- A board member would motion to adjourn.
- Another board member would second the motion.
- The board chair would declare the meeting is adjourned.
However, there are three situations where it’s acceptable for a board meeting to adjourn without a motion and a second.
- The hour has come when the board agreed ahead of time they would adjourn.
- The agenda has been completed in totality.
- An emergency such as a fire or medical emergency brings the meeting to an abrupt halt.
What Are the Basic Rules for Adjournment Under Robert’s Rules?
For board members who aren’t familiar with Robert’s Rules, a cheat sheet that includes the basic rules for adjournment can be helpful.
The basic rules for adjournment are:
- A board member cannot interrupt a speaker who has the floor
- A motion to adjourn must be seconded
- A motion to adjourn is not debatable or amendable
- A motion to adjourn must have a majority vote
There is an exception to the rule that a motion to adjourn is debatable. If the motion to adjourn clarifies when adjournment will occur, or it sets a specific time when the group will adjourn, this part of the motion can be debated or amended.
When a motion to adjourn fails, ordinary business continues. The motion to adjourn cannot be reconsidered, but it can be renewed later in the meeting.
Robert’s Rules for Adjournment: 3 Ways to Adjourn
Meetings adjourn for various reasons. Sometimes a meeting is simply running for too long, despite having a targeted agenda. Other times, a meeting needs to continue, but it needs to continue on another day because it gets late in the day or at night. In certain situations, meetings occur over several days, which often happens at conventions or conferences. In every case, there is a proper way to adjourn a meeting according to Robert’s Rules.
There are three accepted ways to adjourn a meeting, including:
- Adjourn the meeting now
- Adjourn the meeting to continue it later
- Adjourn sine die
Motions to adjourn are often privileged motions, but not always. To adjourn a meeting now, the adoption of the motion will bring the meeting to a close. In this case, it would be a privileged motion. For example, a board member might say, “I move to adjourn.”
An example of a movement to adjourn and continue the meeting later would be, “I move to adjourn the meeting until tomorrow at 9 am.” This is not considered a privileged motion.
The words sine die means without delay. To adjourn sine die is generally used to adjourn the final meeting of a series of meetings over several days, as in the final meeting of a convention of delegates. The motion for adjourn sine die is simply, “I move to adjourn sine die.” This movement is not a privileged motion.
What actions can occur between the time a motion to adjourn is adopted, and the meeting is officially adjourned?
The following actions are permissible in any order:
- Providing information about business that needs attention before the adjournment
- Making an important announcement
- Moving to reconsider a vote that took place at the meeting
- Subsequently, a board member may move to reconsider and enter on the minutes a vote taken earlier in the meeting
- Giving notice for a future motion that requires previous notice to be given during a meeting
- Moving to set the time for an adjourned meeting
Contrary to some beliefs, a board meeting doesn’t end when someone moves to adjourn, and all the “ayes” are in. A board meeting officially ends when the chair announces, “This meeting is adjourned.”
Robert’s Rules for adjournment are pretty straightforward, and they’re something every board member should understand and abide by. Overall, Robert’s Rules are an essential tool for every board meeting.
Since there is much to learn about parliamentary procedure, it’s beneficial to offer your board members training on Robert’s Rules. A great tip to help educate your board members on the proper mechanics of board meetings is to allow for a short time on the agenda to allow an experienced board member to review one or two of Robert’s Rules. The information will be top of mind, and board members will be eager to use what they learned during the current meeting.
Your BoardEffect platform is the perfect place to store a copy of Robert’s Rules of Order and a cheat sheet for your board members to use during meetings. These documents will be accessible to your board members at any time.