Key Points

  • Formal, structured meetings are the way a Board makes decisions, including the “big picture” or more complex decisions which don’t come up everyday. So it is important that you ask questions to make sure you understand and are comfortable with the decisions or actions you’re voting on.
  • Meetings also come with standard procedures and paperwork to make them run smoothly. The most important are the minutes, agenda and financial reports, usually created by the Secretary, Treasurer and approved by the President.
  • While the minutes of the meeting are not confidential, it is appropriate to keep the ‘who said what’ conversations and the issues debated confidential – leave it to the minutes to record the key points and outcomes and keep the remainder confidential. It is important to have genuine discussion and debate as a team, and in the end, it is the decision and process that will be formally minuted. Decisions on controversial issues must accurately record all for/against arguments and the reasons for the decision

Participating in and making decisions at Board meetings is the way you fulfil your duty to make informed decisions in the best interests of the organisation. Decision-makers must look at all available choices, and the decision made must match with the organisation’s vision.  So you’ll need to make sure you have enough information to help you make an informed decision and actively contribute to discussions.  

The organisation’s rules will outline requirements for meetings. How meetings are run will vary in formality, time, location, and style but there are some common things that happen at ordinary meetings. There will typically be an Agenda or even papers to read before the meeting about specific topics to be discussed or decided on and there will be an update on current financial position of the organisation.

At the meeting, the President will be in charge of running the meeting and making sure it runs smoothly. This is also called Chairing the meeting. The Secretary will make an official record of the meeting which is called the Minutes to records the matters discussed, people present, decisions made and actions to be done.  The Minutes will be approved at the next meeting. On occasion, an extraordinary meeting may be held for a specific reason so that the Committee can make a decision that cannot wait until the next regular meeting.                

Once a year an Annual General Meeting, usually called an AGM, will be held. The Annual General Meeting and the reports made to members as part of the meeting are a very important mechanism for making sure the organisation’s governance and leaders are accountable to the members. Because of this, the Annual General Meeting has different procedures to ordinary meetings.

One of the most significant things that happens at the Annual General Meeting is that the organisation’s Annual Report is presented. The Annual Report summarises the major activities and milestones achieved during the year towards its purpose and goals. It also provides a copy of the financial statements and financial overview of the organisation. The organisation’s internal rules will outline the specific arrangements for the annual general meeting such as notice periods, voting, quorums, and whether the financials need to be audited. The organisation’s governance is elected or re-elected at these meetings, and most likely office bearers too.

Top Tip

Make some time to prepare for the meeting. Read any paperwork you get before the meeting and take a note of any questions you have.

Don’t be worried by the wording used to run a meeting: words such as minutes, motions, carried, or quorum. They all have simple meanings and there is a fact sheet below which explains everything.

Want more? ... check out these resources

Online toolkit - QCOSS - Over 10 minutes


This is a super practical online guide from our friends at QCOSS about the particulars of running meetings. There's helpful advice on just about every aspect of running a meeting in a community organisation here.

Factsheet – Legal Requirements for Annual General Meetings – – 2 minute read


Attending your first Annual General Meeting, or AGM, will be easy after reading this helpful factsheet outlining in simple terms the requirements and format of these once-a-year meetings.

Webpage – Effective Board Meetings for Good Governance – National Council of Nonprofits (USA) – 1 minute read


If what you are looking for is ten hot tips for how to make your meetings strategic, outcome-orientated and productive, then have a look at this North American webpage.

Factsheet – What legal issues do you need to consider when holding meetings – Not-for-profit Law – 3 minute read


This Factsheet sorts through the legal issues to consider when holding meetings depending on how your organisation is legally structured and which Australian state you live in.

Website – Australian Charities and Not-for-Profit Commission – 2 minute read


On this website you will find helpful tips on some things you can do to make sure your meetings are efficient, enjoyable and productive. The advice also overs what to do before and after the meeting.

Online article – Institute of Community Directors – 3 minute read


This article is a good place to start to get an overview of how Board meetings work.  Poke around in the related resources on the fantastic Institute of Company Directors site.

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