How to Make a Motion During a Board Meeting (Step-by-Step)

  • By: Josh Palmer
  • December 5, 2023
How to Make a Motion During a Board Meeting
Reading Time: 3 minutes

Making a motion is one of the most essential elements of board meeting procedure. It’s at the center of Robert’s Rules of Order, which are used to govern board meetings, directing the polite and orderly way that decisions are proposed, debated, voted on, and concluded. 

Each motion presents a matter to be discussed, and the handling of motions is how a board of directors operates. Read on to learn the proper steps for making a motion during a board meeting. 

What is a Motion?

A motion is a proposal that the board will vote on. It can be something as simple as approving the minutes from the last meeting to something as important as appointing or removing a board member

Many motions are accepted with a quick and unanimous vote, such as approving meeting minutes, while others spur extensive discussions, get assigned to committees, or serve only to introduce a concept that will not become acted upon for months.

A motion can be proposed by any member of the board, and it must be seconded or acknowledged in order to move forward. If the motion is seconded or acknowledged, the board will discuss the motion, typically with each board member speaking once to voice their opinion on the motion. If there’s no discussion required, or when all the discussion is complete, the board votes on the motion.

A motion can also be postponed if discussions are taking too long or if not enough information is available for board members to make an informed decision.

By making formal motions and subsequent votes, the board adheres to governance procedures and compliance requirements. This ensures decisions are made in accordance with the organization’s bylaws, policies, and legal obligations.

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How to Make a Motion During a Board Meeting

There’s a simple and well-established process to introduce, discuss, and vote on motions. This process was defined in Robert’s Rules of Order and has been used as the standard since the rules were originally penned in 1876.

1. Recognition

The first step is to be recognized. This usually means waiting until no one else has the floor. Then, you will stand, raise your hand, or use an established procedure to get the attention of the chair. Once the board chair recognizes you, you have the floor to present your motion.

2. State the Motion

Next, state your motion clearly and concisely. Provide as much information as is required for board members to discuss the motion. Connect the motion to an agenda item or ensure it addresses an issue pertinent to the board’s responsibilities or the organization’s goals.

3. Second the Motion

In order for your motion to move forward, someone else will need to second the motion. Any other voting member of the board can choose to second a motion. This represents them agreeing the matter should be discussed and voted on at the present time.

In some cases, the chair may acknowledge your motion personally, which allows the motion to move forward.

4. Debate and Discuss

The fourth stage is debate and discussion. During this phase, each board member has an opportunity to discuss the matter, weighing the pros and cons of a positive or negative vote. Board members also have the opportunity to propose changes to a motion.

Traditionally, each board member speaks once regarding a motion, but open discussion may also be permitted. There are generally three options for what will happen to your motion at this point. It may be tabled or postponed for later, sent to a committee for further investigation, or moved to a vote.

5. Vote

During the voting stage, each board member will submit a single vote for (aye) or against (nay) the motion. In some cases, changes to a motion will be voted on first. 

If the ayes outnumber the nays, then your motion will be approved and the action you proposed will become an official board decision. If the nays outnumber, then your motion is rejected. But if you’re driven to see your motion through, you may revise and propose it again at a later date.

OnBoard Increases Board Effectiveness

Proposing a motion is at the heart of how a governing board works. Every matter discussed starts as a motion, and every board member has the right to propose motions. All you need to introduce a motion is a clear and concise idea of what you want to discuss or decide upon.

Whether preparing the meeting agenda or assigning follow-up tasks, OnBoard offers everything you need to conduct board business. Its robust features include minutes builder to effortlessly take meeting notes, Zoom integration to allow for remote work, and of course, a seamless platform for directors and leadership to conduct votes and make high-impact decisions from any device.

Get started by exploring OnBoard’s free Board Meeting Minutes Template, then begin streamlining your board meetings with the help of OnBoard.

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About The Author

Josh Palmer
Josh Palmer
Josh Palmer serves as OnBoard's Head of Content. An experienced content creator, his previous roles have spanned numerous industries including B2C and B2B home improvement, healthcare, and software-as-a-service (SaaS). An Indianapolis native and graduate of Indiana University, Palmer currently resides in Fishers, Ind.