To get the work of your charity done, you will need to hold meetings. Some meetings will be informal – perhaps with a small group discussing a particular project in the local coffee shop. Other meetings will have formal (legal) requirements about how they are held and the process for making decisions. Here are just a few tips on some things you can do to make sure your meetings are efficient, enjoyable and productive.

Things to consider when holding meetings

What type of meeting

  • Consider what type of meeting you are having. Is it a meeting of your charity’s governing body (committee of management or board)? Or a meeting of the members (if any) of your charity? Rules for holding these meetings vary for these two types of meetings (even if the members and the commitee of management/directors are the same people!).

  • If it is a meeting of the governing body (or a sub-committee of the board) or a meeting of the members (for example, the annual general meeting), check your charity’s rules or legislation that applies to it (for example, the corporations or incorporated associations law). There will be rules about things like who can attend, voting procedures and record keeping requirements.

Before the meeting…

  • It can really help make sure a meeting runs smoothly if an agenda, and any information required for the meeting, is sent out to participants well in advance.
  • The most useful agendas list:
    • what is to be discussed at the meeting and the likely time for each item
    • who is responsible for leading the discussion on each item
    • what is the purpose of the item being discussed – does a decision need to be made or does it just need to be noted, is advice being sought or is the matter for discussion only?

    If you have lots of items, think about putting priority items towards the start of the agenda. There are many different approaches… see what works best for your charity.

  • Make sure that you invite the right people to the meeting. Consider what you are discussing to work out who needs to be there to provide information or advice and who must be there to make any decisions required.
  • Find out whether you need to have a quorum (for example, because it is a meeting of your board) – again, check the rules and legislation. A quorum is the number of people required to be able to make a decision at a meeting. Remember, you need to have this number of people for the whole meeting, not just at the start!
  • Be prepared. If you have been sent meeting papers you should read them before attending the meeting. Meetings work best when everyone is prepared for discussion and to listen to the views of others.

During the meeting

  • Start on time if you have a quorum! The time of your staff and volunteers is valuable. Have an agenda and make sure you stick to it. Meetings that drag on for many hours often put people off being involved so better to break and call another meeting if needed.
  • Appoint someone as the chairperson (often this will be covered in your rules). It is the role of the chairperson to make sure the meeting runs smoothly.
  • Take notes. It can be a good idea to appoint one person to take an official record of the meeting. These are usually called minutes and for some meetings (for example, of directors) are required by law. Write down anything that is agreed – enough to show matters were discussed properly and decisions made, but not everything that is said or who said what. Also write down anything that needs to be done (action items) and anything that needs to stay on the agenda for the next meeting.
  • Sometimes your governing body may need to ask members of staff or guests to leave the meeting (for example, if they need to discuss the senior staff pay and performance). You should still take minutes for decisions made in these sessions, but it is a good idea to store them separately to your other minutes.

After the meeting

  • If you have kept meeting minutes, send them to directors of the committee of management (sometimes this is required by law) and not to everyone who attended the meeting and anyone else that may need to see them, such as the CEO. It is a good idea to draft the minutes while the discussion is still fresh in your mind.

  • Check the minutes to see if there are any action items (things that have been agreed to at a meeting) which may require some work between meetings. Every action item should have one or more names against it so that it is clear who will have responsibility for it. Follow up on these items at the next meeting.