The responsibility to take minutes of meetings of the association or its board is typically that of the secretary. Specific responsibilities of directors serving on an association's board are most often stated in the by-laws of the association.
The most common description of the secretary's role includes the keeping of all the minutes and records of the association and the distribution of all required notices. With a job description like this, the role of secretary is a busy one that people often shy away from. When you find a volunteer who is delighted to be the minute taker, hold onto them and never let them miss a meeting! Their absence is often a source of great concern to the rest of the board and their job is one that must be faithfully filled at every official meeting.
I have been to many a meeting where the board members look around as the meeting begins and someone will ask who's taking minutes? Suddenly, people are busy removing lint from their sleeves or even the sleeve of a nearby board member, carefully avoiding the chairman's questioning eyes. What makes this task so formidable? I presume there are several reasons one wouldn't want the responsibility. First of all, as the minute man, scribe, or secretary, you have become responsible to report, as articulately as possible, all of significance that took place within a meeting without adding any confusing description or accidental prejudice. In addition, this report you provide becomes a permanent part of the association's record. From concerns about one's writing style or skills, listening to all that is going on while writing, or the pressure of knowing others will be reading your take on the meeting, the job has been known to intimidate even the most enthusiastic board member.
When a professional management company is employed, many suppose it is the role of the manager to take the minutes. Many of the duties assigned by the bylaws to specific director positions can be assigned to the property manager. There is no rule against assigning this task to the manager and while there are many managers out there taking minutes for the associations they manage, this practice is discouraged by CAI (Community Associations Institute). The reason for this position is that the manager may see things from a different perspective than the association. A manager is a third party, hired to look out for the best interest of the association. Unfortunately, when responsible for taking minutes, there can be a purposeful or accidental slant to the minutes that would provide not only the manager's opinion of the directives given but also the opportunity to manipulate those directives if not performed in a timely manner. Another cause for concern with the managing agent taking minutes is that a board meeting is where decisions are made all of which affect the manager in terms of directives given. Decisions made become the task list for the manager. It is difficult to fully concentrate on the meeting when required to take minutes. For this reason, it is strongly encouraged that another board member accepts this task.
No matter who ends up with the task, there are some fundamental essentials to taking good minutes. The following is a list of some of those essentials.
- Make sure that a description of the meeting is reflected, such as type of meeting, name of the association, date, time and location of the meeting.
- Meeting attendees should be listed (including all board members, guest speakers, and management company representatives).
- Having an outline based on the agenda can be very helpful. This allows you to jump from item to item without pausing. I often print out the agenda with additional spacing allowed between the topics to make room for comments and a description of how that agenda item was addressed.
- All actions taken should be recorded. Every single comment does not have to be memorialized. What is important to note is by whom was the initial motion made, seconded and ultimately how the action was resolved. Was the motion unanimously passed? If not, how many were opposed? If no action is taken on a specific item, it is helpful to note that discussion centered on the topic but that no action was taken. It is also helpful to note when the item will be reviewed again.
- Have the person taking the minutes be the one to type those minutes and ask that such is typed as quickly as possible after the meeting is adjourned. As much as can be committed to paper during the meeting, when sorting through notes later, considerable detail may actually be confusing or taken out of context if typed after your recollection of the meeting has waned . . . or if the person typing the minutes did not hear the conversation.
Keep in mind that taking the minutes is a very important responsibility and should not be taken lightly. If you develop this skill, you may come to enjoy the task. The ability to produce concise, coherent minutes is widely admired and valued among association members at large.