Meeting minutes made easy: Part 1

I’ve been elected as the Secretary, now what?

Being elected as the secretary of an organization may feel overwhelming at first. Though the secretary has many jobs related to their role, many first think of “taking the minutes.” This two-part article will focus on that duty. Part one will concentrate on the components of the minutes, while Part 2 will emphasize using the correct language to use when recording.

According to Robert's Rules of Order (RONR) (11th ed.), p. 458 ll. 24-29, the secretary is the recording officer of the assembly and the custodian of its records, except those specifically assigned to others, such as the treasurer’s books. The recording officer is sometimes called the clerk, the recording secretary, the recorder or the scribe.

The minutes are the written history of the organization. It is where everyone can go to find out what has been decided. The minutes:

  • Are the official record of the proceedings of a deliberative assembly
  • Are the legal public record of a meeting
  • Should reflect what was done in the meeting, not what was said by the member
  • Should never reflect the recorder’s opinion, favorable or otherwise, on anything said or done

RONR suggests that minutes follow this structure:

The first paragraph should contain:

  • Type of meeting: regular, special, adjourned regular or adjourned special
  • The name of the assembly
  • The date, time and place of the meeting
  • If the regular chairman and/or secretary were not present, who substituted for them
  • Whether the minutes of the previous meeting were approved

The body should contain:

  • All main motions or motions to bring a main question again before the assembly, except those that were withdrawn
  • The wording in which each motion was adopted or disposed of, including (parenthetically):
    • If the motion was debated, and/or
    • If the motion was amended
    • If the motion was temporarily disposed of, any primary and secondary amendments would still be pending
    • All secondary motions that were not lost or withdrawn
    • All notices of motions
    • All points of order and appeals
      • Whether sustained or lost
      • Reasons given by the Chair for his or her ruling

The body of the minutes should NOT include what did not occur.

The final paragraph of the minutes should include:

  • The hour of adjournment
  • Signed by the person writing the minutes
    • Respectfully submitted no longer used
    • After final approval, the word “Approved” with the secretary’s initials and the date

The National Association of Parliamentarians offers an online course called Minutes Made Easy, a basic skills course designed for people who are responsible for preparing minutes for any type of business meetings: board meetings, conventions, or other meetings for non-profit organizations, government bodies, or for-profit companies. An article by Julie Pioch, MSU Extension District 13 Director, titled “Suggestions for keeping an accurate history of your organization” provides additional information that is also useful.  

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