Consent Agendas: A Time-Conscious Board Member’s Best Friend

meeting using consent agendas

There’s nothing worse than board meetings that spend too long on unurgent topics that should necessitate minimal discussion.

Yes, rudimentary policies and procedures issues should always remain under some scrutiny, at least. But that doesn’t mean these items should chew into the time allotted for more pressing matters.

To combat such an obstacle, boards of directors utilize something called a consent agenda.

With a consent agenda, routine and/or straightforward meeting items are consolidated into one agenda item. Instead of the board filing each motion individually, they can pass these items in one fell swoop.

Unsurprisingly, the correct use of a consent agenda can cut board meetings’ run-times down by up to a half-hour. Even if it saves just 3 minutes, every second matters – specifically, when those seconds are spent strategizing over high priority items.

What Should Appear on a Consent Agenda?

Below is a list of appropriate items that can be placed on a consent agenda:

  • Financials
  • Committee reports
  • Committee appointments
  • Volunteer appointments
  • Meeting Minutes
  • CEO report
  • Correspondence the doesn’t necessitate action
  • Any perfunctory item that involved a lot of past discussions but still requires formal approval

It’s vital to reiterate that these are all topics that require very little mulling over. When utilized with the above items, a consent agenda is like a swiss army knife that cuts the excess fat out of board meetings.

Missteps with Consent Agendas

One adverse faux pas made with a consent agenda is when board members approve its contents without adequate review. In more than one boardroom throughout history, cover-ups have occurred as a result of rushed approvals.

When directors fail to review financial items adequately, for instance, it can snowball into overspending or unsound fiscal decisions. All because specific board members failed to assess topics that they thought were non-controversial – but were actually indicative of a discrepancy.

Yes, these agendas are for everyday items. But they still require some attention, just in case something is out of whack. Sometimes, the problem or solution can lie in the basics.

A Consent Agenda in Action

Here are some finer details commonly involved in employing a consent agenda:

  • The chair decides on items
  • The consent agenda can be part of the normal meeting agenda or attached separately
  • The chair gives the agenda to board members with enough time for them to examine its contents
  • When meetings begin, the chair asks board members if any consent agenda items should become regular discussion items
  • A consent agenda item becomes a regular discussion item at the request of just one board member
    • Items can then either be discussed, queried, or voted against
  • The chair will read out the remaining consent items if none require moving or if all have been moved
    • Then, the chair can move to adopt the consent agenda
    • If there are no objections, the chair can announce the passing of items on the consent agenda

Is it Time for Your Board to Start Using Consent Agendas?

There are both a time and place for consent agendas—but when used soundly, they promote time-efficiency and prioritize what’s most critical to an organization.