Mel Gravely
June-30-2019

How many people are required at your board meeting or policy council to achieve a quorum?

Every time we host a webinar on record keeping or on the three entities of Head Start/Early Head Start, we get the same question:

“What is the minimum amount of members that must be present at a Board or Policy Council meeting to achieve a quorum? “

The answer to this question is actually pretty simple, it’s the details that can be a little bit challenging. The number of members that must be present to achieve a quorum is a specific number or percentage that is outlined in your bylaws. However, before we move on to talk about what that number should be, let’s first define what a quorum is.

Definition of a Quorum

A quorum is the minimum number of members of a group (in Head Start’s case, the governing body, policy council, or committees) that must be present in order to conduct the official business of the group. While you can physically meet in a room with your fellow board members to talk about issues even if a quorum isn’t present, you cannot conduct any formal business such as making or approving motions.

What should it say in your bylaws?

While it’s relatively simple to define the amount of people required to achieve a quorum in your bylaws, exactly what that number or percentage should be is more of a judgement call on what feels right. One of the most common percentages we’ve seen for larger groups is about a third of members. For smaller groups, the percentage is typically 51%

In addition to a total number, you can also outline in your bylaws the exact mix of members that are required for a quorum. For example, since Policy Council must be made up of at least 51% parents, then you may want to specify that at least 51% of the members present must be parents to achieve a quorum.

It’s important to review your bylaws at least once every two years. Also, keep in mind you can amend them at any time if you believe they are no longer meeting the current business needs. However, this must be done during a regular or special meeting that has a quorum.

What about late arrivals/early departures from the meeting?

If one or more members are running late to the meeting and a quorum has not yet been reached, then the board president can proceed with non voting agenda business until they arrive.

If a member or members need to leave early that will affect your quorum, the Board President can adjust the agenda to allow business items requiring a vote moved to beginning of the meeting.

What about telephone/email meetings?

Luckily, boards and policy councils do not always have to meet face to face in order to conduct business. We do suggest meeting in person whenever possible. That’s when groups tend to come up with their best ideas. However, if you were unable to vote on issues at your face to face meeting because a quorum wasn’t present, the Board President can hold a “virtual” meeting via telephone, email, or webcam using a program like Skype. Keep in mind that the rules for a quorum are still in effect for virtual meetings and at least that many individuals need to vote on any motions in order for them to be valid.

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