How to Write Great Action Minutes

Vol. 14 No. 8

trustees eletter Vol14 No8 graduatesaction minutes

Action minutes are a good habit to get into not only for Board sessions, but for all kinds of meetings—committee, management, faculty. Effective action minutes serve as a “to do” list. They define the task and who will carry it out, set a deadline, and include any pertinent suggestions for strategy—without stifling the individual’s or committee’s initiative. Consider the impact an action minute has in the following situations.

During a Board discussion of work that needs to be done on campus before the school year begins, Vera mentions that she read an article on a new playground-surfacing material. An alert action-minute taker sets the wheels in motion, ensuring that this information will be available next year, when the school’s playgrounds are scheduled for repairs. The action minute would read:

Vera will find the article on the new playground-surfacing material and copy it to Steve [the Business Manager] by Thursday, with a note asking him to investigate pricing and have that information for the next Building and Grounds Committee session on May 20. If the committee decides it’s worth pursuing, Steve will keep the information on file in preparation for playground repairs scheduled for 2017.

A competing school, Locus Academy, recently received a major gift from a graduate. “Why aren’t we getting gifts like that here?” a Board member asks. “One of the goals in this year’s development plan is to cultivate three new major donors,” replies Amy, the Development Director. “I know the Director of Advancement over there. I’ll call to congratulate him and ask him for details.” The action-minute taker must set both a deadline and follow-up steps, which can be revised when the minutes are read out at the end of the meeting. The action minute would read:

Amy will get details from Locus Academy’s Director of Advancement on a recent major gift contribution. He plans to talk with him by May 24. Next steps: She will review our major gift strategies with Kristen [the Development Committee Chair] and report back to the Development Committee at its July meeting.

Aegis Academy has hired a new, inexperienced Summer Program Director. “We need to keep our eyes open for a workshop he can take,” Scott, the Athletic Director, suggests during a Management Team meeting. Here’s an idea that will help ensure the quality of next year’s program; an action minute defines the follow-up, making sure the task gets done. The action minute would read:

Scott will talk with Robin [the School Head] about finding a workshop the new Summer Program Director can take this fall to train him for his position. Suggested organizations to contact: Independent School Management, regional independent school associations. Scott will collect information, discuss timing with the new Summer Program Director, and make a recommendation to Robin no later than June 17.

Action minutes serve a distinctly different purpose from your formal minutes of record. They take a casual suggestion or observation and turn it into an agreed-upon task. They force people to be specific, assign responsibility for following up on good ideas, and create consensus on what is to be done. Just make sure that everyone, even Trustees who did not attend a Board meeting, can easily understand what is to be accomplished and how.

Additional ISM resources:
The Source for Trustees Vol. 13 No. 5 Action Minutes Turn Good Intentions Into Accomplishments
The Source for Trustees Vol. 11 No. 7 Ten Essential Rules for Productive Meetings

Additional ISM resources for Gold Consortium members:
I&P Vol. 37 No. 14 Action-Oriented Agendas for Successful Board Meetings
I&P Vol. 28 No. 9 Charging the Board Committees: A Recommended Format

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