Bringing New Business to a Meeting
Although many groups choose to discuss new business after unfinished business and other matters, it's important to remember that your group can bring new business to the meeting in whatever order is most appropriate for it. The bylaws should reflect whatever your individual group finds is the best order for its meetings. Some organizations find that they do not bring a lot of unfinished business to a meeting, usually taking care of whatever matter is before them and starting off with a generally clean slate. For them, starting with new business works best.
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Some new business can also be conducted in a simpler way. Routine business can be accomplished simply by the chair's specifying an action and announcing that if there is no objection, the action is considered adopted. The chair would say, “There being no objection, the action is adopted.” This is called general or unanimous consent. If a member does object, then the formal process discussed earlier (a formal motion, a second, debate, and then a vote on the motion) should be used.
Business can also be transacted by communications. During the meeting, when a member or the chair of a committee gives a report, a member can introduce business in the form of a written communication. This could be a faxed memo or letter or an e-mail or a videoconference or teleconference. The chair or secretary (or clerk) should read the communication to the membership. Then, if any member wishes the group to consider the content of the communication, it must be put into the form of a motion by a member.
In an urgent situation when the chair is suddenly given a written communication in a meeting, she should always privately read it before sharing it aloud with the membership. This is to make certain it doesn't contain sensitive or confidential information that should not be shared with everyone.
A motion to take action isn't the only way an organization conducts its business. Sometimes a member can propose a resolution — a statement that the organization is in favor of or opposed to a matter. Often resolutions are more formal and complex and are written down and presented for a vote by members. The resolution must then be seconded and voted upon. Then it can be debated by the members.
An example of a resolution might be for a city council to name a day for a civic leader or celebrity. A council member would write a resolution and either read it to the council and its audience or pass it to the chair to read. The member might say, “I move the adoption of the following resolution: Resolved, that August 10 be named Jane Wright Day, in honor of the many contributions this former councilwoman made to our city.” If the resolution is very lengthy, the member might say, “I move the assembly approve the resolution relating to [and summarize the resolution], which I have given to the chair.” If the resolution is offered to the chair to read, he or she would introduce the resolution by saying, “The resolution offered by [member's name] is as follows.…”
Resolutions are a great way for a civic organization to show support for — or raise a warning flag of caution about — a local issue such as a tax increase for schools or a fund drive. The support can sometimes be even more valuable than a monetary contribution.