An 8-minute AGM?!
ONN gets down to business in 8 minutes at its first Annual General Meeting
We’ve had lots of interest about ONN’s 8 minute AGM. For the record, it turned out to be 9 minutes…but who’s counting? Comments and questions like: Why rush such an important governance mechanism? How can I have a short AGM? Please share your script with me! And what if our members don’t like it?
Springboard has had short Annual General Meetings (AGMs) for 15 years and this year’s timed in at the six-minute mark. Our reasoning for this was that the primary purpose of an AGM was to ensure the transaction of business in accordance with incorporation requirements. To highlight organizational accomplishments and the year ahead, we host a reception immediately following the AGM where we celebrate the year’s successes and talk about upcoming initiatives. Members, funders, donors, staff and volunteers participate in the celebration of Springboard’s service to clients and the community knowing that required business was appropriately conducted and good governance is in place.
The Function of AGMs
AGMs serve an important role- don’t get us wrong. They provide an opportunity for the board and staff (where there are staff) to publicly share important information, such as audited financial statements, and elect the leadership that will govern the board throughout the next year.
AGMs are a legal and business activity. Only a few specific things are required: approve minutes from the previous years’ AGM, approve the financial statements, appoint the auditor and elect the Board. And most of the approvals required are based on what has happened in the past year and don’t present the best opportunity for engaging your members in your future work.
Case in point – audited statements are a reflection of what has happened in the past year as reviewed by a professional – these reports cannot be changed. So, while it’s important to seek your members’ input on future directions and initiatives, an AGM may not be the best place for that.
Over time, AGMs have evolved to become about other things, such as sponsorship and volunteer recognition, an opportunity to celebrate specific accomplishments, invite keynote speakers, or make other announcements. These are all fine and laudable endeavours – we would simply encourage organizations to be aware that these are add-ons and not essential components of your AGM.
Another format to thank volunteers?
Your AGM might well be the best time to recognize volunteers. Then again it might not! How many volunteers would prefer another venue for their recognition? Sometimes we get stuck in patterns without considering other creative approaches to getting our work done.
Short AGMs do require good prep- making sure members do get material in advance and have an opportunity to ask questions or seek clarity. Transparency and accountability should always be the modus operandi. And sometimes a short AGM won’t work – if you have substantial changes to your bylaws, or if your organization is in a state of change or transition for example, an AGM can be a key opportunity for discussion.
So, will ONN strive for an 8 minute AGM next year? Likely… but we’ll be sure to evaluate and consider the purpose of the AGM and what we should be sharing with our members and take it from there.
See our detailed script for an AGM: ONN.AGMDetailedScript.general.2014. Cut and paste, share it- we encourage the sector to use it how you see fit.
About the Authors
Marg Stanowski is Vice-Chair of ONN’s Board of Directors, and Executive Director of Springboard, a community based charitable organization with innovative programs in the areas of community justice, employment and developmental disabilities.
Cathy Taylor is the Executive Director of the Ontario Nonprofit Network, the provincial network of Ontario’s 55,000 nonprofits and charities.