Give Your Consent To Shorter Board Meetings


By: Joe Patti

If there is one thing people hate, it is long, protracted board meetings. It may well be one of the factors keeping you from establishing a quorum at meetings.

One of the easiest solutions is to implement a consent agenda. What that does is package routine items like committee reports; financial reports; staff hires requiring approval; items needing no discussion, but requiring board approval, into one agenda item. With a single vote, the board disposes of business that may have taken up over a half hour of a meeting.

Dr. Les Wallace wrote an article touting the benefits of using a consent agenda because it frees up time for discussion of governance issues, strategy and board development.

The key to the success of a consent agenda is preparation. The burden often falls heaviest on the staff of the organization which needs to prepare financial statements, compile committee reports and generate summaries for the agenda. Of course, materials need to be prepared in support of whatever activities are going to fill the newly freed time.

The consent agenda materials must be sent out far enough in advance of a meeting to allow all board members to review them. Board members must take the time to review them in advance.

Use of a consent agenda requires a degree of commitment and discipline, not only in preparation but execution.

The consent agenda must be approved as a whole, without discussion. Either a board member needs to ask a question about an item in advance of the meeting or the item must be removed from the consent agenda and placed within the meeting agenda for separate discussion and voting.

These rules are outlined in a BoardStar article on the subject. BoardSource also addressed this option in an article that is now behind a registration wall. (my emphasis)

“If a board member has a question, wants to discuss an item, or disagrees with a recommendation, he or she should request that the item be removed from the consent agenda. Without question or argument, the board chair should remove the item from the consent agenda and add it to the meeting agenda for discussion.”


“Just a quick question” is not an option when using a consent agenda. Either an item is removed and discussed or it stays put. This places the burden of facilitation on the board chair to be disciplined about stopping discussion and removing items from the consent agenda.”

There is no Maybe in a consent agenda
Joe Patti
Joe Patti
In addition to writing for ArtHacker, I have been writing the blog, Butts in the Seats ( since 2004. I am also an evangelist for the effort to Build Public Will For Arts and Culture being helmed by Arts Midwest and the Metropolitan Group. ( I am currently the Theater Manager for the Rialto Theater in Loveland, CO. Across my career I have worked as the Executive Director at The Grand Opera House in Macon, GA, at University of Hawaii-Leeward Community College, University of Central Florida, Asolo Theater, Utah Shakespearean Festival, Appel Farm Arts and Music Center and numerous other places both defunct and funky.
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