Quakers write their minutes contemporaneously, meaning each minute is agreed in the meeting. This usually happens at the end of the topic and must happen before the meeting ends. Once the meeting has closed and the clerk has signed the minutes, they aren’t altered or amended – beyond “dots and commas”, where the meaning isn’t altered but errors in spelling or grammar is corrected. Any factual correction can be made with a “clerks note” which is then pointed out at the beginning of the next meeting.
So why would any clerk need Draft Minutes?
Draft minutes can be prepared in advance to help a meeting go quicker, especially for routine matters. Look at a selection of minutes from your own business meetings. Do you see patterns? There is often recurring information presented each time where only the meeting specific details will be updated.
Consider this example:
Present: This xxxx number of members and xxxx attendees were present.
Conflicts of Interest Declarations: None
New Safeguarding Issues: None
Minutes and Matters Arising
The minutes of the (previous date) meeting were circulated, one error was corrected – the accounts were for 2022, not 2202. All clerks actions were acted upon.
Beyond routine matters, there are topics where you need to include background information or references to other minutes (either your own or sent from other groups). By preparing these parts of the minute in advance you avoid making everyone wait while you find the correct details/sections, copy and paste them into the document, and format it appropriately. Not only is this less frustrating for everyone else, it’s less stress for you! (Which, as well as being more pleasant, decreases the chance that you will make mistakes – and gives you more time to catch any errors which do slip through.)
Writing draft minutes can also bring valuable clarity. If you realise you are missing important information during the drafting process, you have time to send off an email to request that info, or can consider the matter and decide that you can’t discuss the topic at this meeting as you need to wait for xxxx to happen. You can even decide that this topic is simply too big and unwieldy to include in this month’s agenda and it will need to wait until next month. Or be sent to a subcommittee to wrestle with before it comes back to the main group/committee.
Finally, writing a draft and letting it sit allows you to revisit your words and reconsider what you have written. Is there waffling? Is anything unclear? Would the minute benefit from anything being added or removed? Approaching a piece fresh lets you see issues or gaps which slipped past you during the writing process.
Important topic with a decision required
Following our minute xxxx, and the subsequent report from Trustees found in their minute xxxx. The report from the subcommittee was circulated with the draft minutes and papers, it was spoken to by xxx and xxx, there was time for feedback and questions were answered…
- It was agreed to accept the committee’s recommendation to…
- It was agreed to accept the committee’s recommendation with the following changes…
- It was not agreed to accept the committee’s recommendation and instead we ask the committee to
- taking account of the discussion finding ways to incorporate the concerns raised
- start again with a wider group of options
- do something completely different!
Obviously, not all of these will be included in the final minute. However, having prepared wording with reference to other minutes circulated before the actual meeting can be a useful tool to ensure that everyone at the meeting remembers (or learns):
- what happened to get us to this point
- why decisions were made by whom
- what we are actually deciding…
- and what has already been decided. If the building is in the process of being built, starting to suggest ideas on how to create a foundation isn’t helpful if you’re only there to agree on the front door’s colour.
Keep in mind that these are usually instructions and should be written in the present tense.
However, no matter how beautifully written these are, remember that they are just drafts! Hold them lightly and accept that the spirit may move and blow them away. The meeting in session is always the final authority as to what should be decided and recorded for each item on the agenda.