Robert's Rules For Dummies book cover

Robert's Rules For Dummies

By: C. Alan Jennings PRP Published: 02-08-2022

All in favor of improving meeting procedures, say Aye!

Trying to keep your in-person and virtual meetings on track and running smoothly? You need Robert's Rules of Order! These rules for conducting meetings have stood the test of time as the gold standard for practical and effective procedure in group settings like corporate and nonprofit boards, councils, and more. And there's no better way to learn the latest version of the rules than with Robert's Rules For Dummies.

This handy guide demystifies the Rules and offers readers a practical roadmap to applying efficient procedures to everything from conducting online and in-person meetings to voting by email. It also:

  • Contains brand-new, updated content on the latest 12th Edition of Robert’s Rules
  • Offers sample meeting agendas, minutes, scripts, and other material to show you how the pros keep meeting records
  • Walks you through the basic—and not so basic—ways to nominate and elect officers and directors in organizations

Ideal for board members, convention delegates, business owners, nonprofit executives, and anyone else trying to maintain an orderly flow of business—online or in person—Robert’s Rules For Dummies is a need-to-read resource that will make you wonder how you ever survived without it.

Articles From Robert's Rules For Dummies

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26 results
26 results
Robert’s Rules For Dummies Cheat Sheet

Cheat Sheet / Updated 04-25-2022

Robert's Rules provides rules and procedures that allow a deliberative assembly to make its decisions efficiently, and with all due regard for the rights of the minority. Following the rules ensures more a fair and more achievable outcome without wasting time, but remembering all the details of parliamentary procedure can be a tall order. Keeping some quick reference material on hand when you enter a meeting will ensure you have the important information you need to effectively and democratically achieve the business of the assembly.

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Meeting Minutes According to Robert's Rules

Article / Updated 11-24-2021

To save you time and unnecessary work, Robert’s Rules spells out exactly what needs to go into your minutes. Minutes are important because they’re the only surviving record of what was said and done at a meeting. They can be dry and boring. In fact, it’s probably a good sign if they are! Most importantly, they need to be informative and easy to navigate for whatever the reader needs to know six months from now. When you call a parliamentarian and ask for help, they're going to want to see the minutes, and they're going to need to find something important — maybe the exact words of a bylaw amendment that was officially adopted, or a tellers’ report that furnishes details on the vote tally. Simple organization of the facts and use of unpretentious language are the best attributes you can give your minutes. You want your minutes to be readable, but you must be precise in the information you give. Your minutes provide the record of the action taken at the meeting, so they need to clearly memorialize the facts. Composing your meeting’s minutes The first paragraph needs to include this information: The kind of meeting (regular, special, annual, adjourned regular, adjourned special, and so forth) The name of the organization The date, time, and location of the meeting (don’t list the location if it’s always the same) A statement confirming that your organization’s regular presiding officer and secretary are present (or giving the names of the persons substituting for them) A mention of whether the previous meeting’s minutes were read and approved (and the date of that meeting, if it wasn’t a regular meeting) Corrections to minutes are noted in the minutes being corrected; they’re not detailed in the minutes of the meeting at which the corrections were adopted. (The minutes of the meeting at which corrections were made should merely state that minutes of the previous meeting were approved as corrected.) The body portion of the minutes needs to include this info: All main motions (except ones that are withdrawn), along with the name of the member making the motion (but not the name of the person who seconded the motion). Motions bringing a question again before the body (except for ones that are withdrawn). The final wording of the motions, either as adopted or as disposed of. If it’s appropriate to include mention of debate or amendment, you can note these items parenthetically. The disposition of the motion — including any adhering amendments — if it’s only temporarily disposed of. Information about the vote. Counted vote Roll-call vote Ballot vote Secondary motions not lost or withdrawn, where necessary for clarity (example motions include Recess, Fix Time to Which to Adjourn, Suspend the Rules, Postpone to a Particular Time, Ballot Vote Ordered, and so on). Allude to the adoption of secondary motions by saying, “A ballot vote having been ordered, the tellers. . . .” Notices of motions. The fact that an assembly went into quasi-committee or committee of the whole, and the committee’s report. All points of order and appeals and their subsequent dispositions, with reasons given by the chair for the ruling. (Rulings often establish precedent, so a careful record here is important.) The full text of any report that the assembly orders to be entered into the minutes. This situation doesn’t happen often because a reference to a written report is usually sufficient for the record. Any of the juicy and disorderly words that a member has said that get them “named” by the chair for being disorderly. The last paragraph of your minutes needs to include the hour of adjournment. And that’s it! Well, except for the following additional notes to keep in mind when finalizing your minutes: The proceedings of a committee of the whole aren’t included in the minutes, but you do need to include the fact that the move into committee occurred and also include the report of the committee. When a question is considered informally, the same information should be recorded as in regular rules. Informality is permitted only in allowing additional opportunities to debate. The full text of any report is included in the minutes only if the assembly so orders. Record the name of any guest speaker and the subject of presentation, but make no summary of the speaker’s remarks. Signing the minutes Minutes are to be signed by the secretary and, if customary, may also be signed by the president. Minutes are your group’s legal record of its proceedings, and the secretary’s signature establishes evidence of the original document’s authenticity. Approving the minutes The minutes of one meeting are normally approved at the next regular meeting, following the call to order and opening ceremonies. If the meeting is an adjourned meeting, you approve the minutes of your previous meeting (the meeting that established the adjourned meeting) before taking up business where you left off in that meeting. Also, the minutes of the adjourned meeting need to be approved at the next adjourned or regular meeting. Minutes drafted ahead of time aren’t the official minutes until the members approve them. Because changes may be made in the minutes before they’re approved, it’s good practice for the secretary to note somewhere on the distribution copy that it’s a “draft for approval.” When minutes are approved, the secretary annotates the original file copy with any corrections in the margin or retypes the minutes to include the corrections. The secretary then writes “Approved” on the minutes and adds both his initials and the date to the record.

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Robert's Rules for Approving the Minutes

Article / Updated 10-07-2021

According to Robert's Rules, minutes drafted ahead of time aren’t the official minutes until the members approve them. Today's technology has made its mark on meeting minutes. The secretary can now draft the minutes and easily send copies to the members for them to read before the meeting; then members can come to the meeting prepared with any corrections. You can still read the minutes aloud to the members in the meeting, if you want to, but if time is precious, distribute the draft of the minutes in advance. Because changes may be made in the minutes before they’re approved, it’s good practice for the secretary to note somewhere on the distribution copy that it’s a “draft for approval” at the next regular meeting. Members who make notes of any corrections to meeting minutes are able to keep accurate records if they keep their copies of the draft minutes on file or if a final version isn’t automatically distributed to them at a later date. Handling the motion for approval The most efficient way of approving minutes is for the chair to assume the motion and obtain unanimous consent that the minutes be approved as distributed (or as corrected). The presiding officer says, “The minutes have been read (or distributed) to you. Are there any corrections?” If corrections are offered, the chair handles each by offering the correction to the membership, just to be sure everyone agrees that the correction is accurate. The secretary then enters the corrections on the master copy. When no (further) corrections are offered, the presiding officer says, “If there are no (further) corrections . . . (pause) . . . the minutes are approved as read/distributed/corrected.” It’s never in order for a member to simply object to the approval of minutes. If a member has some objection to the content of the minutes, he must offer a correction. If disagreement arises about the correction, the correction can be amended using the rules for amendments. Approving minutes by committee If the assembly isn’t meeting again for a long time (if at all), such as in annual membership meetings or conventions of delegates, the process of approving the minutes is delegated to a special committee or an executive board. This practice produces an approved and legal record of the meeting shortly after the meeting closes but before memories of what occurred in the meeting fade. If yours is a group that customarily deals with minutes by a motion to “dispense with the reading of the minutes,” you need to make a change. Your intent is probably to approve them with that motion, but you don’t actually approve anything. You just agree not to read them. If you want to use the term dispense in your meeting, let it be to “dispense with the reading of the minutes and approve them as distributed/printed.”

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Making and Handling Motions Following Robert's Rules

Article / Updated 04-11-2017

In an organization that's following Robert's Rules, when that light bulb goes off in your head and you have a great idea, you make a motion to get your idea discussed and a decision made. Here are the eight steps required from start to finish to make a motion and get the decision of the assembly. Each step is a required part of the process. See also Robert's Rules on Basic Motions. Step What to say 1. The member rises and addresses the chair. “Mr./Madam Chairman.” 2. The chair recognizes the member. “The chair recognizes Ms. Gliggenschlapp.” 3. The member makes a motion. “I move to purchase a copy of Robert’s Rules For Dummies for our president.” 4. Another member seconds the motion. “Second.” 5. The chair states the motion. “It is moved and seconded to purchase a copy of Robert’s Rules For Dummies for your president. Are you ready for the question?” 6. The members debate the motion. “The chair recognizes Ms. Gliggenschlapp to speak to her motion. . . .” 7. The chair puts the question, and the members vote. “Those in favor of adopting the motion to buy a copy of Robert’s Rules For Dummies for your president, say ‘Aye.’ [pause] Those opposed, say ‘No.’” 8. The chair announces the result of the vote. “The ayes have it, and the motion carries. A copy of Robert’s Rules For Dummies will be purchased for your president.”

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Using Robert's Rules: The Presiding Officer’s Script

Article / Updated 04-11-2017

The best presiding officers plan ahead. With an agenda and knowledge of the business at hand before the meeting, a plan can turn into a script like the following example that following Robert's Rules and will enable you to preside like a pro. President’s Scripted Agenda June 19, 2012 Call to order: 3:00 p.m. Rap the gavel once. One time. Uno Rappo. Ein Bangf. The meeting will come to order. Approval or correction of minutes The secretary’s draft of the minutes of the May meeting was sent to you last week, and a copy is in your meeting packet. Knowing you all to be judicious minute-readers, please let me know now if you found any errors. Pause. Are there any corrections to the minutes as distributed? Take corrections until there are no more. If there are no (further) corrections, the minutes stand approved as distributed (corrected). The next order of business is officer reports. Reports of Officers President’s Report You have a copy of my written report, so I’ll review a couple of highlights and move on. Treasurer’s Report The treasurer is absent this afternoon, but furnished his report. Let’s take a minute to review it. I hope I can answer any questions. We have 281 dues-paid members, $21,272 total cash accounts. You have in your meeting packets some financial reports for the period 1/1 to 5/31. You have an itemized income and expense report covering our year to date in your materials along with an expense detail available; if you have any questions, I’ll be glad to try to answer them. Handle questions No action is required on the treasurer’s report. It will be filed for audit. Before we continue, please allow me to report some committee appointments. Report committee chairmen and membership appointments so far. Executive Director’s Report The chair recognizes Mr. ED for a report. Thank you Mr. ED There are a number of recommendations here and we’ll take them up one at a time. . . . Ask Secretary to read the first recommendation. Someone then should “move the adoption of the recommendation just read.” State the motion It is moved to adopt the recommendation just read. Is there debate?” Handle discussion; put the question when ready by saying, Those in favor say "Aye" [pause] Those opposed say "No". . . . The motion passes (fails) and the recommendation is (not) adopted. The next order of business is standing committee reports. Reports of Standing Committees Membership Committee Chairman’s Report The chair recognizes ____ for the membership committee report. [Script for motions arising from the report] Thank you ____. Finance Committee Chairman’s Report Your president is the current finance chairman and the treasurer’s report given earlier covered everything. Convention Committee Report Members, complete information from the last Convention that has not been finalized, and the Convention Committee will report at the next meeting. Next order of business is reports of special committees. Reports of Special Committees
 Special Certification Committee Report The chair recognizes ____ for the certification committee report. [Script and handle motions arising from this report] Thank you. Special Chapter Charter Revision Committee Report The chair recognizes ____ for the chapter charter revision committee report. You have a written committee report. The committee recommends you adopt the following resolution. Read the resolution. The question is on the adoption of the resolution just read. Is there debate? Handle debate, put the question, announce the result. The motion passes, and the resolution is adopted. New Business Is there new business? The Chair recognizes AB. [AB makes motion and it is seconded.] It is moved and seconded to create a special committee of three members to be appointed by the president to report recommendations on requirements for annual continuing education credits for members. Handle debate, put the question, announce the result. Is there any further business to come before the meeting? Announcements We need to set the date for our next meeting. It looks like September 18 is the usual date. Shall we meet next at 3 pm on September 18? Hearing no objection, we’ll meet next on September 18 at 3pm here at the clubhouse. Adjourn There being no further business to come before the board, the meeting is adjourned.

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Following the Standard Order of Business

Article / Updated 04-11-2017

An easy way to remember the Robert’s Rules standard order of business is with the mnemonic 3R-SUN — you can see it clearly in the following list. This list is a quick reference to make it easy for you to set up a basic agenda for your meeting. Reading and approval of minutes Reports of officers, boards, and standing committees Reports of special (select and ad hoc) committees Special orders Unfinished business and general orders New business

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Robert’s Rules for Special Meetings

Article / Updated 08-10-2016

Special meetings are, well, special. According to Robert’s Rules, they’re called only if 1) something important comes up that must be dealt with before the next regular meeting, or 2) some particular business matter(s) is important enough that it needs to be the exclusive reason for the entire meeting. After all, you’re busy, so special meetings had better be important, right? Now, because these meetings are special, the notice announcing them is special as well. You have to take a little more care with notices for special meetings than you do for regular meetings. To be on the safe side and to eliminate doubt, you should always provide for written notice of special meetings to be sent within a specified time frame before the meeting. For example, your bylaws may state, “Notice of special meetings shall be mailed to the members at least 14 days but no more than 30 days before the meeting.” The actual range for notice varies depending on the size of your group and the distance members must travel. The important point is that the range of dates for sending the notice must be reasonable, and everyone must be able to receive the notice in time to arrange their schedules to attend the meeting. All the notice principles for regular meetings still ring true for special meetings. You can’t hold special meetings if your bylaws don’t provide for them. Check your bylaws before you worry about special meetings. Calling a special meeting If you need to have a meeting before the next regular meeting, go ahead and do so. But be sure that it’s important and can’t wait. And don’t try to cover anything more than what is absolutely necessary. Write your notice, include the pertinent details, and get out the notice as far in advance as you can. (Hopefully, your bylaws dictate the lead time requirements for special meeting notice. If not, you need to amend the bylaws to include this info.) Drawing up the special meeting notice Make your notice simple and to the point. The subject of the meeting must be so urgent that it can’t wait. Don’t try to accomplish anything else at this meeting. Just write down exactly what you need to address and get the notice in the mail. Suppose Peter Piper just applied for membership on your Parched Peanut Purveyors panel. Piper promised to pick a peck of pickled peppers for each of your panelists if he’s permitted to petition for a position on the panel prior to the time his pickled pepper patch pays out. Pickled peppers dry on the vine long before your next regular meeting. You really want Piper to belong to the club: Not only is he a person of patience and prestige, but you and the other panelists have postulated that the prospects for pickled peppers packed with parched peanuts is a profitable possibility. The opportunity to present Piper to the panel and permit his promise to perhaps profit the panel requires a special meeting. In accordance with provisions of your bylaws, you call a special meeting and send a notice to all the voting members of the panel that reads as follows: Parched Peanut Purveyors Panel Notice of Special Meeting A special meeting of the Parched Peanut Purveyors Panel will be held at the Peanut Patch on March 22 at 3:00 p.m. to peruse the petition of Peter Piper and prognosticate on the possibility of permitting Piper to hold a permanent post on our panel. Please plan to participate. Sincerely, Lilbo Peep Secretary Now, as long as a quorum is present (the minimum number of voting members required to be present to validly conduct business in the name of the assembly), and provided that a majority of the panelists adopt the proposal, Peter Piper’s petition will pass. That fact will then be placed in the proceedings of the panel. Special meetings always require previous notice. Special meeting notices not only must include the date, time, place, and location, but also must specify all the business to be included in the meeting. Nothing other than this business, and the various motions that allow the meeting to take care of this business, can be considered in a special meeting if it’s not included in the notice. Be sure to call special meetings only when something must be addressed before the next regular meeting. Your time is important, so use this tool judiciously. Save everything that can wait for the next regular meeting.

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Robert’s Rules: Quorumless in an Emergency

Article / Updated 08-10-2016

Robert’s Rules dictate that you can’t get around the requirement that a quorum be present to take official action in the name of your group. The quorum rule holds fast even if everybody in attendance votes unanimously to do something. In fact, Robert’s Rules says that any action done by those in attendance at an inquorate meeting is null and void, at least as an action of the organization. But what if you have to do something? Like, you really have to do something? What if the circumstances are such that you call a special meeting to discuss making repairs to the heating system in your neighborhood clubhouse, and a snowstorm blows in and keeps everybody away except you and the other members who live no more than one or two doors away from the clubhouse. And while you’re shivering in your boots in the clubhouse with your neighbors wondering what to do, a huge limb on the old tree next to the building breaks under the weight of its icy branches and crashes through the roof, leaving a gaping hole — and the snow, tree debris, roofing materials, and broken rafters are all over the place, and the storm is getting worse, and… . The answer is really simple: You still can do nothing in the name of the organization. Even if you all agree that the clubhouse’s heating system will have to wait on the quorum, but you decide that the roof must be fixed immediately at the expense of the group, you can’t bind the group to pay the bill unless a quorum is present at a properly called meeting. You and the others can certainly make a decision to call in a roofer to make emergency repairs, but you do it at your own risk. If the membership doesn’t agree that you did the right thing, or even if they agree but vote against a motion to ratify your action, you’re “out in the cold,” so to speak! In that case, the club doesn’t have to pay the bill: You and your buddies do. The motion to Ratify allows the group to approve, by majority vote at a regular meeting (or properly called special meeting) with a quorum, your action and adopt it as the action of the group. After that happens, you and the others are off the hook, and your action is no longer null and void. Things happen, and sometimes decisions must be made in the absence of proper authority. But the rule is that, without a quorum, or without proper notice, nothing done is binding on the organization unless and until the organization ratifies the action in a properly called meeting with a quorum present. And this rule can’t be changed, even by a unanimous vote.

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Robert’s Rules for Unfinished Business and General Orders

Article / Updated 08-10-2016

Robert’s Rules state that you have to address motions that were before the assembly but not disposed of (for whatever reason) in earlier meetings, but that weren’t made special orders. At this point in the order of business, items fall into two categories: unfinished business and general orders. Unfinished business Suppose you’re considering a motion to lease a pink limousine for the Elvis impersonator scheduled to headline your annual talent show. Before you can finish your debate, the group adopts a motion to adjourn. You have unfinished business, and it’s the first item you take up (after special orders) under this order of business in your next meeting. After you decide what to do about the limousine, you’ll take up any business that was left under unfinished business in your previous meeting’s order of business. Unfinished business includes the following items, which are considered in the order listed: Any item (not a special order) that was pending when the previous meeting adjourned. Business items that were on the “unfinished business” list in your previous meeting but were still not taken up before adjournment. Items that were general orders in your previous meeting but were not reached during that meeting. (They’re considered now in the order in which they were made general orders.) General orders General orders are items that were made orders of the day by being postponed to a certain time in the previous meeting so that they come up in this meeting. For example, you’re considering a motion to install a second phone line at the neighborhood clubhouse, and somebody moves to postpone the motion until next month’s meeting. The postponed motion becomes a general order for next month. And when you give notice of a bylaw amendment that you want to have considered at the next meeting, the proposed amendment becomes a general order for that next meeting. You can also make something a general order by adopting an agenda containing the item of business, or by adopting a motion by majority vote to consider a question that’s not currently pending, such as, “I move that next month we consider a motion to host a picnic for all the soccer teams in our league.”

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Robert’s Rules for Avoiding Out-of-Order Main Motions

Article / Updated 08-10-2016

No matter how good your idea may be, if you want to propose something that goes against the bylaws (or your charter or constitution, if you have either or both), Robert’s Rules state that your presiding officer has no choice but to rule your motion “out of order,” which is a nice, succinct way of saying, “We can’t go there now because, for some reason, it’s against the rules.” Of course, if you’re actually proposing to amend the bylaws, constitution, or charter in the manner provided for their amendment, then you’ve found the exception to this rule. It’s just as out of order to offer a motion again in the same meeting after a direct vote has obliterated it or it was “procedured” to death (and that’s usually a big waste of time and not much fun). The parliamentary gurus will tell you that it’s a fundamental principle of parliamentary law that you don’t put members through the same discussion twice in the same meeting unless somebody who voted on the prevailing side moves to reconsider and a majority agrees to undo the vote and talk about it some more and vote again. Similarly, if the assembly has disposed of some motion temporarily, as happens when a motion is postponed to your next meeting or handed off to a committee for a thorough work-over, it’s uncool to get sneaky. If old Fred deFumer offers a new motion that conflicts with the motion you postponed or committed, or that is nothing more than a convenient spin on the same question to try to start up the discussion all over again, your chairman can (and should) rule Fred’s motion “out of order.” Another no-no is to move to do something that isn’t copacetic with something you’ve already decided. Let’s say you have a policy that forbids smoking and drinking on the property. Brazenly, Myrtle Marlboro moves to allow her husband’s cigars-and-cognac club to use the clubhouse for its monthly social gatherings. If Mr. Chairman is on his toes, he’ll be quick to rule Myrtle’s motion out of order because he knows the club policy doesn’t permit it. If Myrtle wants to get the clubhouse for her hubby’s club, she has some other motions to get passed before her original motion is in order. Finally, a motion to take some action that is outside the purposes for which your organization exists is out of order, too, unless two-thirds of the members present and voting agree to admit the motion. Don’t think you have to sit around and wait for the chairman to rule a motion out of order. You can speed things up by taking a little initiative by making use of the incidental motion Point of Order.

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