I wanted to write a monthly feature on a few easy to implement tools to help not-for-profits and charities. If there’s something you’d like to see here, let me know. This first one is the Consent Agenda.

Who can use it? Boards and ED/CEOs who want to get more value out of board meetings.

What is it? A Consent Agenda is a group of routine business items that can be approved as one action instead of filing multiple motions on each item separately. Common business items that may be grouped into the consent agenda are regular items that do not require a discussion. Items like: previous board meeting minutes, ED and other operational reports, financials, committee minutes, and any other item that would be included in the board package that don’t require discussion or decision making. It is imperative that boards allocate enough time to reviewing they package in advance and if any member decides that an item warrants a discussion, they can ask for the item to be pulled out of the consent agenda and be placed on the agenda for discussion before approval.  

When to use it? A Consent Agenda is a good best practice for any Board that finds themselves running out of time at the end of their meetings or rushing through governance or strategic discussions in favour of business-as-usual rubber stamping. It can save a lot of time and allow board and staff members to get more out of their meetings. It is not recommended for Boards that do not do their homework ahead of time or when reports are being sent out with very little notice before meetings. You should be giving your boards at least one week to review materials in advance of meetings. Also, it is not a good idea for annual financial approvals to be put into the consent agenda, like the annual budget review or performance bonus increases. A consent agenda shouldn’t stifle or hinder conversation, just save time on items that traditionally don’t warrant analysis.

Why? A Consent Agenda, used correctly, will allow the Board and executive staff to focus on forward looking initiatives and less time going over operational activities that have already occurred.

For more details on how to implement a consent agenda, see this How To guide.