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Running good meetings

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Use this page to learn about the different types of meetings and how you can work to make them effective.

Board meetings

Board meetings are formal meetings of the charity’s trustee board. The board must meet as often as is necessary to carry out their role of governing the charity.

Setting up your meeting

The rules about the frequency, conduct and logistics of board meetings vary from charity to charity and are usually set out in the charity’s governing document and associated policies. Practice can also develop over time, based on the style and preference of trustees.

It’s usually the responsibility of the chair with the support of the chief executive to set the agenda for the meeting, including considering any time limits for discussion. If the trustees need to review information before the meeting, this should be shared in advance with enough time for trustees to consider the material and raise any questions.

During the meeting

The chair of trustees is responsible for chairing meetings of the trustee board. Any further duties or powers of the chair might be set out in the governing document or agreed by trustees or members.

Every meeting will be slightly different, but most will include the following standard points:

Apologies

It’s important that absent trustees are noted, especially for when the board makes decisions that they weren’t a party to. Your minutes guide the board and any external parties who may want to review your meeting, so it’s essential to note these down accurately

Declarations of interest

Whilst most charities have a register of trustees’ potential conflicts of interest, it’s worthwhile to ask for any new declarations at the beginning of every meeting. More information on this can be found in the conflicts of interest section.

More information on this can be found in our conflicts of interest guidance.

Minutes from the last meeting and meeting records

This allows trustees to raise follow-up questions from previous issues rather than use the main meeting to repeat what’s already been discussed. It’s also a useful reminder of what was covered at the last meeting as trustee meetings are usually months apart. The minutes are a formal record of the board meeting and must be recorded accurately, agreed by trustees, then signed by the chair and securely kept for the duration of the charity's life. There are specific rules which apply to the retention of minutes for different legal forms

Discussing agenda items

A chair is a facilitator, and will encourage quieter ones among the group by asking direct questions or going round the table to make sure everyone has had the space to contribute.

Depending on capacity, you may want to delegate some items of work to a sub-committee or sub-group. The board should check with subgroup chairs whether they have any reports for the meeting.

An action register is a useful tool to help track what actions have been assigned for each agenda item. You can then use this as a checklist for your next meeting and see if everyone has done what they were supposed to do.

Any Other Business (AOB)

It’s important to give trustees the opportunity to raise matters that haven’t appeared in the minutes of the last meeting or raised in your current meeting.

Chairs may prefer to ask for advanced notice of AOB before the meeting formally begins. This can be helpful if the issue is to be dealt with at the upcoming meeting or outside of it.

Closed session

It’s good practice to offer trustees the space to discuss matters without any executive staff members in the room. This usually takes ten minutes and gives trustees the opportunity to ask the chair questions about the executives’ individual performance (in a way that doesn’t undermine them in front of their colleagues).

Dates of the next meeting

It’s always wise to clarify this. It’s also good to know if too many trustees will be absent so you can avoid not being in quorum and having to reschedule. The quorum is the minimum number of trustees required to be present for a meeting to be valid.

Making board meetings effective

Board meetings can lose their effectiveness if they focus too much on trivial or day to day issues, or if trustees are not prepared for meetings. If you want to make your meetings more effective, have a think about the following questions.

Questions to ask yourself and your board

  • Frequency – are meetings held as required by our governing document?
  • Attendance – Do all our trustees attend meetings unless genuinely unable to do so?
  • The agenda – is it clear which items are for decision and which are for information? Do the main agenda items cover issues relevant to the board’s governance role?
  • Advance papers – do these help the board prepare for the meeting? Are they circulated in good time so that trustees have a chance to read before the meeting? Do trustees read the papers?
  • Discussion – is the meeting organised in such a way to help the board have thorough discussions about governance issues – for example, future plans to raise funds or long term plans rather than on routine matters?

General meetings

A general meeting of constitutional members can be held at any time.

Your charity’s governing document will set out how general meetings should be called and run. You may have additional guidance documents as well, such as standing orders, rules, or bye-laws.

Meetings are usually called by sending out a ‘notice’ of the meeting. This should include the:

  • date
  • time
  • location.

The notice may also include the full meeting agenda, as well as any supporting documents. Notice must be issued to everyone allowed to attend the meeting, and there must be proof that the notice has been given in adequate time and in the right way.

Your governing document will mention the following:

  • Whether you can give notice electronically or whether it must be sent by post.
  • The timing of the notice. If this isn’t specified, the recommendation is 21 clear days before the meeting.

Your meeting must have a quorum in order for decisions to be valid. A quorum is the number of people or votes needed to make a decision, and this will usually be set out in your governing document.

Quorum for meetings will vary from organisation to organisation, as the quorum needs to be appropriate for the size of the membership.

The AGM

Not all charities will hold an Annual General Meeting (AGM). The requirement will be set out in your governing document. The AGM is a specific type of constitutional members’ meeting.

It takes place once per year and is usually used as an opportunity for constitutional members to meet with trustees and hear their report on the charity, reviewing of the accounts, and other administrative business where constitutional members have powers.

Steps to run a members’ meeting

  1. Agree the purpose of the meeting. If the purpose is a decision that needs to be made by members, refer to your governing document and follow your meeting rules.
  2. Set the time, date, and location of the meeting. Make sure this is in line with your rules, or in more than 21 days’ time so you can give your members enough notice. Try to schedule your meeting at a time and in a place accessible to the most people.
  3. Send notice to your members (including your trustees). The notice needs to include the time, date, location and business of the meeting. If there will be a vote you also need to include any information about how members can nominate a proxy to vote on their behalf.
  4. Circulate any supporting information to your members and gather any proxy requests.
  5. Arrive early and make sure the space or place (in person or online) is set up and ready for the meeting. This might include putting out copies of the agenda, or creating breakout rooms in advance. The meeting secretary should prepare their minutes to make sure their record is accurate.
  6. When the meeting begins, confirm that the gathering is quorate. This means having enough constitutional members to be able to discuss and make decisions. When enough members are present, announce the chair and introduce the trustees. The chair can then run through the agenda.
  7. If decisions are taken by vote, make sure each member has the correct voting power. Usually this is one per member, unless the member is a nominated proxy for someone else. If your members are organisations, with multiple people attending the meeting, you must make sure only one attendee votes on behalf of that member. In some cases members may be allowed more than one vote. Check your governing document to confirm whether this applies to you.
  8. Record all business undertaken at the meeting in formal minutes. This record also needs to state:
  • how decisions were taken.
  • If a vote is held, how many votes are cast in favour and against the motion.

Holding virtual meetings

Trustee meetings

Trustees can choose to hold electronic meetings unless these are expressly prohibited in the governing document. Trustees must normally be able to see and hear each other for a board meeting to be valid – this includes face to face meetings and meetings held by video conferencing . It is recommended that boards meeting exclusively by video conferencing should have at least one physical meeting each year. A voice-only meeting is only possible if the charity's governing document allows it.

General meetings and AGM’s

Whether or not you can hold a General Meeting or AGM electronically will be set out in your governing document. Unlike trustee meetings the governing document needs to expressly allow such meetings to be held electronically for them to be valid. It is important to check your governing document before holding a virtual general meeting or AGM.

Last reviewed: 29 April 2022

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This page was last reviewed for accuracy on 29 April 2022

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