The Importance of Accurate Meeting Minutes


Board meeting minutes are more than a general accounting of board discussions; they serve as an official and legal record of the meeting. When it comes to your sports club, it is essential to have accurate meeting minutes. Not only is it a requirement, but they can prevent disagreements and misunderstandings and they assist greatly with continuity given the nature of volunteer turnover.


Minutes are important details that you can’t ignore. Minutes represent the actions of the Board and Organizational leadership and are considered legal documents by auditors, the IRS, and the courts. Even though there is no standardized format for meeting minutes, the IRS and the courts consider it important that you made a reasonable effort to report the facts of the meeting.


Your meeting minutes should reflect a record of motions, votes, and abstentions. But they can also be used to track progress, detail plans, and serve as a reference point as you progress through continued important conversations.


Good meeting minutes help drive a plan of action for your leadership team and organization. They clarify how, when, why, and by whom decisions were made. They map out a plan for the action items (which helps get the work done) and they later provide valuable information to those team/board members who aren’t able to attend the meeting. It also serves as a useful review document when it comes to measuring progress in time.


Meeting minutes can be long and detailed, or they can be short and to the point, depending on the nature of the meeting. Generally, minutes should be as concise as possible as long as they highlight all key information and it is understandable.


In your role, preparing meeting minutes doesn’t have to be an arduous task. You’ll essentially have five steps involved with recording effective minutes for a meeting.

  1. PRE-PLANNING

  2. RECORD TAKING (DURING THE MEETING)

  3. WRITING THE OFFICIAL MINUTES OF MEETING

  4. DISTRIBUTING EMAIL RECAP AND SHARING EMAIL FOLLOW-UPS

  5. FILING/SAFEKEEPING THE MINUTES OF MEETING


1. PRE-PLANNING


A well-planned meeting helps ensure effective meeting minutes. If the President/Chair and the Secretary work together to ensure the agenda and meeting are well thought out, it makes minutes taking much easier. The agenda should include the topics to be discussed, who will be speaking/presenting, and if anything needs a motion of acceptance or a vote.


When your agenda is well constructed, you can pull together a template for your minutes with that information. For example, you can pre-write the following information and then make adjustments if necessary:

  • Date, Time and Location of the meeting

  • List the attendees

  • List the topics and speakers in order of the agenda

  • Note if there is a motion or vote to take place

Having this information already detailed in the minute’s document makes it easier to focus on the discussion and helps to keep the meeting moving forward. You won’t need to look back and forth at the agenda to see what’s next or who is speaking next. The information is already there in the template and if there is a change, it’s easy to fix.


2. RECORD TAKING (DURING THE MEETING)


The template can also help you maintain more structured minutes. The two most important things to know when understanding how to take minutes at a board meeting is what information to record and how to present it.


To take effective minutes for a board meeting, you should include:

  • Date of the meeting

  • Time the meeting was called to order

  • Names of the meeting participants and absentees

  • Corrections and amendments to previous meeting minutes and motions to accept as accurate

  • Additions to the current agenda

  • Whether a quorum is present

  • Motions that are taken or rejected

  • Voting-that there was a motion and second, and the outcome of the vote

  • Actions that were taken or agreed to be taken

  • Next steps

  • Items to be held over

  • New business

  • Open discussion or public participation

  • Next meeting date and time

  • Time of adjournment

You can even put some of these items in your template ahead of time and fill in the details as you move through the meeting.


Tips to help you effectively take notes:

  • Create an outline - as discussed earlier, having a template based on the agenda makes it easy for you to simply jot down notes, decisions, etc. under each item as you go along.

  • Check-off attendees as they enter the room - if you know the meeting attendees, you can check them off as they arrive, if not have folks introduce themselves at the start of the meeting.

  • Record decisions or notes on action items in your outline as soon as they occur to be sure they are recorded accurately

  • Ask for clarification if necessary – for example, if the group moves on without making a decision or an obvious conclusion, ask for clarification of the decision and/or next steps involved.

  • Don’t try to capture it all – you can’t keep up if you try to write down the conversation verbatim, so be sure to simply and precisely capture important points (especially if there is a debate), the decisions, assignments, action steps, etc.

  • Record it – if you are concerned about being able to keep up with note-taking, consider recording the meeting (e.g., on your smartphone, iPad, recording device, etc.) but be sure to let participants know they are being recorded.


3. WRITING THE OFFICIAL MINUTES OF MEETING


Once the meeting is over, it’s time to pull together your notes and write the minutes. Here are some things to remember:

  • Write the minutes as soon after the meeting as possible while everything is fresh in your mind

  • Be objective. Write in the same tense throughout

  • Avoid using names other than to record motions and seconds or when there is a debate that must be noted

  • Avoid personal observations — the minutes should be solely fact-based

  • If there was a lot of discussion before passing a motion, write down the major arguments for and against

  • Review your outline and if necessary, add additional notes or clarify points raised. Also check to ensure all decisions, actions, and motions are noted.

  • It’s better to attach board reports, handouts, and other documents that were referred to during the meeting to the final copy, rather than summarizing the contents in the minutes. Just note that the information is attached.


4. SHARING AND DISTRIBUTING THE MINUTES


Once your meeting minutes are fully written, you are responsible for making sure they are accurate so they can be official. The first step is to send them to the President and Vice President to see if they have any corrections.


The next step is to send out an email recapping any action steps that came out of the meeting, noting any specific and immediate reminders, and thanking them for their attendance. It’s also important to include a copy of the minutes. Typically, the board doesn’t put forward changes or approvals of the minutes until the next board meeting but it doesn’t hurt to send out a copy of the minutes early.


At the next board meeting, you will accept any agreed-to changes to the previous meeting minutes and then there will be a motion to accept them as accurate and a true account of the meeting.


Once the minutes have been approved and accepted, they become legal documents.


5. FILING/SAFEKEEPING THE MINUTES OF MEETING


Proper storage of the meeting minutes is essential. Your board should have a process and policy in place regarding where and how documents are to be stored for future reference.


If you do not have a process or policy, this should be the bare minimum:

  1. A folder (electronic) for Board Meetings per year

  2. Inside, a folder (electronic) for each month

  3. In each month:

  • Agenda

  • Board reports or other supporting documents that were provided

  • The first version of the meeting minutes

  • The final version of meeting minutes (both document and pdf)

  • The audio file if one were taken


As the club Secretary, your duties are to ensure proper and accurate records are kept. Board and AGM minutes rank high in your responsibilities as they reflect the true intentions of the board and are an official and legal record.