Understanding Consent Agenda: A Strategic Tool for Efficient Board Meetings


In the realm of nonprofit and healthcare governance, maximizing the efficiency of board meetings is crucial. A well-implemented consent agenda can streamline board operations, freeing up time to focus on strategic discussions rather than routine items. This article explores the concept of a consent agenda, its benefits, and how to use it effectively, guided by governance expert Brad Clarke.

What is a Consent Agenda?

A consent agenda consolidates routine items into one agenda point, allowing them to be approved collectively without individual discussion. This efficient approach not only saves time but also frees up board members to focus on more complex, pressing issues. Understanding how to effectively compile this strategic agenda, and what to exclude, is crucial for enhancing board productivity. Next, we will explore what should be included in a consent agenda to ensure its effectiveness.

What Should Be Included in Consent Agenda

When considering what to put on a consent agenda, it’s important to ask two questions:


Brad Clarke, MPH

Brad Clarke brings over 17 years of experience in governance and strategic planning with health and nonprofit boards across the US and New Zealand, holds a master’s degree in public health, and has extensive executive experience in corporate compliance and quality improvement.

1) Is it a routine matter that the board must approve?
2) Is it a matter that the board has discussed in the past and/or one where there is obvious consensus on approval?

If the answer is yes to either of these questions, the matter should be placed on the agenda. Items that are typically found on a consent agenda may include, but are not limited to:

  • Minutes of the previous meeting
  • Confirmation of a decision that was previously discussed
  • Committee reports that require board action
  • Routine revisions of policies and procedures that require board approval
  • Updating of formal, legal documents (e.g., address change for the main office)
  • Confirmation of conventional board actions that are required in the bylaws

What Should Not Be Included

  • Financial budgets and/or reports, unless previously discussed in detail
  • Audit materials and/or reports
  • Quality and patient safety issues
  • Action items requiring discussions

How to Effectively Use a Consent Agenda

A consent agenda can be an extremely useful tool when used properly. To ensure board members never sacrifice transparency and accountability for the sake of time management, it is important for board members to always be prepared and well informed prior to voting on a consent agenda. Some practices to follow include:

  • Ensure that all board members are informed on the purpose and processes of a consent agenda prior to its use.
  • Distribute all related materials to board members allowing sufficient time for review, typically a week in advance.
  • Invite board members to request the removal of any item from the consent agenda on which they would like further discussion; this can be done in advance or at the beginning of the board meeting.
  • If an item on the consent agenda is removed for discussion, that item alone is moved to the end of the meeting agenda for discussion following all other board business.
  • The consent agenda typically appears on the meeting agenda following the call to order and any guest introductions.
  • All the items on a consent agenda are typically approved at the beginning of the board meeting by a single motion, made by the board chair, seconded, and carried. Given no objections to the motion, the chair will announce that the consent agenda is unanimously approved. Discussion is not invited with consent agenda items.
  • Notate any time a vote is taken on a consent agenda in the meeting minutes. All items and documents included in the consent agenda should be readily accessible for review before and after the vote is taken.

The Role of the Consent Agenda in Strategic Governance

By freeing up meeting time, the consent agenda allows the board to focus more on strategic issues such as long-term planning, policy development, and major projects. This focus on high-impact areas of governance can significantly enhance the organization’s ability to fulfill its mission and improve outcomes.

This powerful tool for boards enhances meeting efficiency and focus on high-priority issues. By understanding and implementing this approach effectively, boards can significantly improve their operational effectiveness, allowing them to better serve their constituents and fulfill their governance roles.

Explore More with Via Healthcare Consulting

If you’re looking to deepen your understanding of effective board governance and strategic planning, consider consulting with experts like Brad Clarke at Via Healthcare Consulting. With a focus on mission-driven governance and comprehensive regulatory insights, ViaHCC is equipped to elevate your organization’s board effectiveness. Contact us today.

*Adapted from: Price, Nick, “Consent Agenda for a Nonprofit Board,” November 2018, Board Effect, and Consent Agendas, BoardSource

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