Ask a former clerk:

How can I deal with Any Other Business?

"I don’t accept any!"


 How do I arrange the items I decide should be on the agenda?

"I identify the key matters and place them early. Background material is sent round in advance and not repeated in the meeting. I add estimated timings to the agenda and ask someone to be a gentle timekeeper."


How do I initiate an item of business for the agenda? Is it my right to do this?

"It is generally inappropriate for a clerk to initiate an item of business. If I see a need for some business to be brought to the meeting, I discuss it with one or more of the elders who can to discern whether it is appropriate to bring the matter at this time, and who might be asked to do so. There are some matters for which clerks alone have authority to decide, but this shouldn’t be one of them."


How do I avoid an over-long agenda or an overlong meeting?

"I offer draft minutes for straightforward items, asking Friends 'can we take this on draft minute?' If the Meeting goes on beyond the expected time, I ask Friends if they wish to continue or hold over items."


How can I prepare well for the meeting?

"I go through the agenda items making sure that as much as possible information Friends might need is available. If a matter appears to be routine I make sure that I have a draft minute prepared in advance possibly with gaps for, say, names or dates (but am ready to abandon it if it turns out not to be routine). I often find the wording of the draft minute by using the minute agreed the previous time a similar matter was considered."

Preparation for the meeting

Collecting and sorting agenda items

Depending on your context you may inherit the makings of an agenda or you might have to start from scratch. If items arrive in your inbox you will have to do some prioritising. We talk about ways to do this later on.

Required business

Most regular (not one-off) meetings have required business - standing items that either come every time or at expected times during the year. Look back at previous minutes if necessary and try to get an idea of what tends to come in and when. You can copy the wording from your predecessor’s minutes. Copy-and-paste is your friend provided you are careful to change all relevant details. Be warned!

You are entitled as clerk to go chasing up business matters that you believe should be taken at the next meeting. An inspection of minutes from previous years could point the way to likely items. These include such things as financial reports, other regular reports, one-off reports promised to the meeting that haven’t materialised so far. Be on your guard to correctly identify matters which look like business items but are really notices or could be dealt with away from the meeting. Hear-say or assertions arriving in someone’s email inbox need careful discernment.

Sorting agenda items

By the time your deadline arrives you will probably end up with too many items for one meeting. This is where you hone your skills at triaging what should be on the agenda, what could usefully come, what can be delayed, what does not need the meeting’s agreement. This is how you can sift the potential items:

 

  1. Isolate all the essential items that MUST come this time – those that are time-specific, are legally necessary, important in their own right, or are to be taken out of consideration of the Friend(s) who might be involved in the matter. Then decide:
  2. Which items do not need agreement and could be taken as notices?
  3. Which items appear not to be well thought through yet?
  4. Which items are sensitive or confidential? There may be better ways of dealing with them before bringing some aspects to a meeting.
  5. Which items are not urgent and could frankly wait a couple of months?
  6. Which items could or should be re-directed to another group (elders, treasurer, trustees, a sub-committee)?
  7. Which items (if, say, you are clerking an elders’ committee) should be referred to a ‘parent’ body such as Area Meeting?

Here are two invented routine agendas as basic examples of possible items:

draft local

 

draft area