Robert’s Rules of Order
Updated: Feb 3
By Nicole Cork
Robert’s Rules of Order is a widely used manual of parliamentary procedure that is adopted by many nonprofit associations and organizations that are governed by a board of directors. In simple terms, it is a guide to conduct effective and efficient meetings that allow decisions to be made as a group. As many who have volunteered on, or worked with, a board of directors know, making important decisions can sometimes feel like a daunting task when there are a number of people at the table. However, the best decisions are made when considering all facts and opinions.
The basic guiding principles of Roberts Rules are:
Everyone has the right to participate in discussion if they wish, before anyone may speak a second time.
Everyone has the right to know what is going on at all time. Only urgent matters may interrupt a speaker.
Only one motion* can be discussed at a time.
*A motion is the item under discussion that requires a decision by the board.
The meeting chairperson is responsible for ensuring that everyone in the meeting can hear and be heard. It is important to have a clear agenda going in to the meeting, so that the chairperson can use this as a guide to ensure that all items are covered and the meeting moves along in a timely manner.
Robert’s Rules is based on the principle of consensus decision-making, which involves a proper discussion for every motion that is put forward. Every motion should follow the below steps:
Motion: Board member brings the motion to the attention of the chairperson.
Second: Another board member seconds the motion.
Restate Motion: The chairperson restates the motion.
Discussion: All members discuss the motion.
Vote: The chairperson will restate the motion and then ask for affirmative and then negative votes.
Announce the vote: The chairperson announces the result of the vote.
When a consensus decision is made by the group, it is considered final and the chairperson should guide the group to move on to the next motion or point of discussion. While not all decisions will be unanimous, at this time, all board members should feel like they have at least been able to share their thoughts on any particular motion.
Running efficient and fair meetings is the key to fostering a positive working relationship amongst board members – we always see this trickle down through organizations to their membership as well. While not every meeting may run perfectly, learning Robert’s Rules of Order and using them as a guide for running your board meetings will make a big difference when it comes to decision making.
A full listing of Robert’s Rules of Order can be found online here, along with the full updated version in PDF – the hard copy of the guide can be purchased online through any retailer. We suggest educating your board of directors on Robert’s Rules and practicing them during board meetings in order to better understand some of the key principles.