Global Governance Advisors

How to Write a Motion for a Board Meeting

Posted by Linaeya Horn-Muller on Mar 11, 2019 9:00:00 AM
Linaeya Horn-Muller
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 It's the holidays and you’re the chosen victim to host this year’s family dinner. Unfortunately, this dinner doesn’t get your undivided attention because your AGM happens to be right around the corner, and you have the meeting and motions to prepare for. Lucky for you, there’s a universal "recipe" that can ensure success in the kitchen and the boardroom… 

A well-written English Trifle recipe is similar to a well-written board meeting motion. It's unique, concise, specific and ensures that your family can taste the whipped cream that you infused into each individual raspberry, the same way your board members can see the hard work you put into your motion.

The Motion

Stop.

Before you read any further you must organize your thoughts. A good motion writer can easily itemize the countless innovative ideas bouncing around his or her head.

Instead of taking the long way to work before the AGM, arrive early enough to practice your motion and to jot down any additional main ideas that you want to convey. Do not forget to include the key ingredients to your motion, such as why the motion is necessary, any legal factors, and if the board is working against a deadline. A good motion writer will be well versed in the details of their motion and has mentally anticipated any potential questions or concerns. 

Does your motion need funding? Be very particular about the wording you choose and the details surrounding where you recommend the funds come from. Any motions that propose funding will require a second motion to approve the allocation of funds.

While preparing, it is important to read and re-read your motion. Say it out loud. Is it clear? Does it ask your board of directors to take a specific action? Does it need a time-frame? Don’t be afraid to ask for feedback from one or two other board members, prior to the meeting.

Motion Types

Parliamentary procedure (Robert’s Rules) provides set guidelines when it comes to making motions. The following are common types of motions:

  • Main Motion – this is the “ask” motion. It requires that a board takes a specific action. It requires a second and can only be introduced if there is no other motion on the floor.
  • Subsidiary Motion – this motion changes the treatment of a main motion. For instance, a motion is introduced by one board member and another member may deem this motion sensitive in nature and introduces a subsidiary motion to go into executive session. An executive session would be used to further discuss the main motion, prior to voting on it.
  • Privileged Motion – this motion takes precedence over other motions and they are not up for debate. It is the motion that provides boards of directors the opportunity to bring up urgent matters that are typically unrelated to the business being discussed at the current meeting. They cannot be combated with a subsidiary motion, unless the board wants to adjust the time to adjourn or take a recess.
  • Incidental Motion – this motion asks for additional information on the procedures related to other motions. Incidental motions table the main motion until clarity is provided.

Examples of a Motion

Let’s look at a couple of examples. The board at a top public university has been discussing whether to renovate the kitchens in the four freshmen dorms. They haven’t been renovated in approximately 15 years and the board agrees that they need to be updated. It’s time to make a motion to renovate the kitchens.

A poorly-written board meeting motion:

I move to redo the kitchens in the four freshmen dorms.

A well-written board meeting motion:

I move to redo the kitchens in the first and second freshmen dorms in May 2019. The second phase of renovations will occur in July 2019, for the third and fourth freshmen dorms. The renovations for both phases will be funded by the board's budget at a cost of $60,000.

The more detail the better. If you are vague and unclear you may face more amendments, and risk the modification of your original motion to an unrecognizable point. 

Closing Thoughts

That completes your overview on how to effectively write a motion for a board meeting. Feel free to browse through the rest of our blog (how about checking out How to Chair a Board Meeting) for more. 

Topics: GGA, Board Meeting, Board Motion