Appropriate Use of a Consent Agenda

An important tool in maximizing board meeting time and enhancing a board’s overall effectiveness is the consent agenda. This tool allows boards to streamline meetings by combining routine matters that require board approval into one agenda item. By removing routine issues that do not require discussion from the agenda, the board is freed to focus more of its meeting time on strategic issues, generative discussions, and other important matters. Below are a few recommended guidelines for how and when to use a consent agenda.

What Should Be Included

When considering what to put on a consent agenda, it’s important to ask two questions: 1) Is it a routine matter that the board must approve? and 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 consent 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

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.

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


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