Running a Volunteer Meetings

Running volunteer organization depends on running good volunteer meetings. Meetings are where important information is exchanged between the administration and the membership. The desires and the will of the membership is expressed during these meetings.

Running a volunteer meeting requires preparation and discipline. The leader, usually the president, must establish order and control the meeting. This can only be done with good preparation. Preparation for a meeting starts with the end of the previous meeting. I have been the president of my organization for 7 of the last 8 years and have run over 80 meetings. I quickly learned that I need to keep track of what was said at a meeting, what we agreed to do and to keep an organized "To Do" list.

To run a volunteer meeting, the president should set forth an agenda. The agenda can be the same from meeting to meeting or could have specific details to be discussed. I prefer to set forth an agenda with specific details which allows for a more efficient meeting but this requires a lot of advanced preparation. A standard agenda should follow this basic outline:

    1. Call to order
    2. Salutations
    3. Roll Call
    4. Reading of minutes of previous the volunteer meeting
    5. Presentation of communications and bills
    6. Officer's reports
      • President
      • Chief
      • Line Officers
    7. Treasurer's report
    8. Secretary's report
    9. Committee reports
    10. Old Business
    11. New Business
    12. Good and Welfare
    13. Closing Comments
    14. Adjournment of the volunteer meeting

Let's look at each section of the agenda in detail and make some specific recommendations.

Call to Order

Each meeting should have a set time and place for each volunteer meeting to occur. Your organization by-laws should explain this and also set the minimum number of members that have to be present to have a legal meeting. This is called a quorum. In general a quorum should be a set percentage of your total membership. In our organization this is 25 percent of the members on our roster have to be present to have a quorum.

In general no vote is necessary to have a meeting called to order. Once the president decides that the quorum has been met, the meeting can proceed.


In the United States this is generally the Pledge of Allegiance but there may be other oaths that can be expressed. I remember that when I was in the Boy Scouts also said the Boy Scout Oath right after the pledge of allegiance. In our organization we also hold a moment of silence for departed members.

Roll Call

It is usually the recording secretary's job to take attendance at the volunteer meeting. Occasionally members may be excused for a variety of reasons. When a member is excused, they are counted as having attended the meeting for a several purposes. One such purpose in our organization is that if a member misses more than 50 percent of the meetings they can be dismissed from the organization. The excused absence counts towards their overall attendance record.

Some acceptable excused absences are:

  • Work
  • School
  • Dependent care (baby sitting)
  • Illness (usually requires a doctor's note).

Reading of minutes of previous meetings

The recording secretary should have typed up the minutes from the previous meeting and made them available to the membership. Essentially the agenda is reproduced with attendance information and motions recorded.

Many volunteer meetings are quick with a set format. Others (even in the same organization) can be extremely lengthy with a lot of rapid discussion. It is reasonable that the recording secretary miss or confuse some issues. The membership should have the ability to amend and correct the previous meeting's minutes.

The president should call for a vote to accept the minutes as is or amended. This is frequently a voice vote (see Voting).

Presentation of communications and bills

Many times individuals outside your organization will have communications with you. The corresponding secretary usually reads these to the membership during the volunteer meeting. Frequently these are invitations to special functions or thank for your service.

Any bills incurred by a member on behalf of the organization are also presented at this time and recorded by the Recording Secretary. Our refreshment and house committees often submit bills but there are other kinds of bills as well. For example as president I needed to by print cartridges for our printer. This bill will be submitted.

These bills are for expenses other than the normal expenses such as utilities, fuel and insurance. Normal expenses are usually covered under the treasurer's report.

Officer's reports

The officers of the organization will present information that they feel is necessary to share. Usually the president starts and is followed by the Chief officer and then the remaining line officers. Each report can cover anything but as each officer reports, they should note not to rehash information given by a superior officer.

Treasurer's report

The treasurer's report is on the financial health of the organization. Information that should be covered is the current balance of all accounts that the organization holds as well as the cash flow for the preceding month.

Cash flow is important to note and requires a written report. The report should have the following sections:

  • Previous Balance of all accounts
  • Account of money the organization received in detail
  • Account of money the organization paid in detail
  • Ending balance

In the past many volunteer organizations had a reputation of mishandling money. My own organization had its treasurer arrested for embezzlement of over $10,000. It is vital accurate records be kept. For example, if your organization charges dues (mine does, $3 a month) then the report must record the members who paid their dues. If you organization wrote a check for flowers (see good and welfare) then the check number, the amount and who it was paid to and for what purpose needs to be recorded.

A word of caution! Many meetings may be attended by individuals who are not members but guests of the organization. They may be visiting mutual aid associations or members of your governing body in the town. You may not want to openly discuss the contents of the treasurer's report in front of them. My recommendation is to make a motion to defer the treasurer's report till the volunteer meeting can be closed

Treasurer's reports can be very lengthy and the treasurer needs to be very accurate. The president should call for a vote to accept the report.

Secretary's report

This report is usually the shortest of the officers. In our organization the recording secretary spends most of their time managing the minutes and keeping track of the call reports. The president usually calls for a voice vote to accept the report.

Committee reports

You organization may have several standing committees that need to report their activities. In our organization we have the following committees:

  • Membership
  • Supplies
  • Training
  • Uniforms
  • Communications
  • Quality Control
  • By-laws and Procedures
  • Police Liaison
  • Fire Liaison
  • Mayor and Council Liaison
  • Good and Welfare

Each chairperson reports on the activities of the committee since the last meeting. The president may call for a vote on any issues that may be brought up during the reports.

Any ad hoc or temporary committee reports are also presented at this time.

Old Business

Any issues that were previously presented during your volunteer meeting that have not been acted upon are brought up during old business. Having accurate minutes are essential to ensure that you don't allow old issues to be forgotten. Some issues could have been "Tabled" and now brought back up for discussion.

New Business

Since the last meeting new issues may come up. The president must control how this information is presented otherwise this part of the meeting can become confused. Each member who wishes to present an issue needs to be recognized by the president so no member is overlooked. This part of the meeting can take a very long time.

Good and Welfare

Sometimes members will suffer hardship or illness. During the volunteer meeting other members should recognize this and offer help. In addition some members will have reason to celebrate such as the birth of a son or daughter. The organization may wish to do something special for the member. My organization sends flowers to the mother (if she is not a member) and purchases a savings bond in the name of the child.

Closing Comments

The president usually will make some closing remark at the end of the volunteer meeting. In our organization the president will call for a motion to pay any outstanding bills and will announce the the date and time of the next meeting.


The president usually calls for a motion to close the meeting.


During the course of a volunteer meeting various issues will need to be voted upon. This is done in the form of a motion. The concept behind a motion is to formerly bring a concept before the membership and have it decided upon in a specific way. The general procedure for a motion is as follows:

    1. A motion is brought before the members
    2. The motion is seconded
    3. A discussion takes place if necessary
    4. A vote takes place to affirm or deny the motion

Let's look at each section in a little more detail.

Bringing forth a motion

Any member can bring forth a motion. Your by-laws may specify who can make motion and when motions can be made. In general the President may call for a motion at various times during the meeting.

Let's take a hypothetical example, the acceptance of the previous meeting's minutes. The following conversation should take place:

President: Can I have a motion to accept the minutes as read?

Mary: I make a motion to accept the minutes as read.

President: Can I have a second?

John: I second the motion

President: Any discussion?

President: Seeing none all in favor?

Membership: Aye

President: All opposed?

President: Seeing none opposed the motion to accept the minutes as read is passed.

As you can see, this was pretty straight forward. The recoding secretary is required to write down the motion and who presented it. The member who seconded the motion also needs to be recorded. Any discussion should also be required and finally the vote and result needs to be recorded.

These routine motions are easy to discuss. Let's now assume that the minutes of the previous volunteer meeting needed to be amended. The following discussion shows how to handle such a motion:

President: Can I have a motion to accept the minutes as read?

Mary: I make a motion to accept the minutes as read.

President: Can I have a second?

John: I second the motion

President: Any discussion?

Sally: The attendance in the minutes is incorrect. I was listed as not being present but I was there.

President: I would like to amend the minutes to reflect that Sally was present. Mary can you amend your motion to reflect this change?

Mary: I would like to amend my motion to accept the minutes as amended.

President: Can I have a second

Sally: I second the motion

President: Any additional discussion?

President: Seeing no additional discussion, all in favor?

Membership: Aye

President: All opposed?

President: Seeing none opposed the motion to accept the minutes as amended.

So we can see that the minutes were changed and the motion was amended to reflect this change. This is called an amended motion. In general only the person who made the original motion can amend the motion.

There are two other typical options for motions. These are withdrawn motions and tabled motions. Let's discuss these. Let's take the example of making the following motion:

John: I would like to make a motion to paint the upstairs meeting room blue.

James: I would second that

President: Any discussion

Sally: This is ridiculous! We just painted the meeting room white just last week why would you like it painted blue?

John: I withdraw my motion.

John has withdrawn his motion. No further action is required by the membership. The secretary has the option of not recording a withdrawn motion since no action took place. In practice all motions should be recorded.

Let's look at another example:

John: I would like to make a motion to purchase new membership jackets.

James: I second that motion

President: Discussion? How much would these jackets cost?

Treasurer: We have only a limited amount of funds in our bank account. We really need to determine how much we are going to spend before we vote.

President: We will table this motion until we have more information.

This is one of the prerogatives of the president. The motion was made without sufficient information and could cost the organization more money than they have to spend. The motion was seconded but by tabling the motion, the president has put the motion into suspension. This is a topic for "Old Business" at the next meeting. A tabled motion is one that can not be forgotten and needs to be addressed at some point in the future. No vote is required by the membership.


Motions need to be voted upon. There are several methods of voting. How you decide to vote on a motion in a volunteer meeting depends on the motions.

Voice Vote

Voice Votes are common in volunteer meetings. In fact a voice vote may be the most common form of a vote. The president usually asks "All in favor" and hears the membership as a whole say "Yea" or "Nea". Such votes are usually reserved for procedural votes like adjournment or accepting various reports.

Show of Hands or Tally Vote

Some votes require the recording of how many members approved of a motion. This can be done by a show of hands in favor of the vote. A simple majority is usually required for a motion to be passed via a "Show of Hands". Such votes are usually reserved for motions that require spending of money or changing of procedures.

Roll Call Votes

Some votes require that the vote of each member is required. I find these are actually rare in volunteer meetings. In our organization the only time we called for a roll call vote was for a purposeful violation of our by-laws. For example, we ran into a condition where we did not have any members who were qualified for deputy chief. We needed to hold over the current deputy chief for 1 year so we could wait till a qualified members presented themselves. This requires each member to have their position recorded for the vote. We do this so we minimize any further discussion at later meetings with members attempting to reverse their positions.


Some issues require a secret ballot. The most common vote is the election of officers. This is usually done via secret ballot. We also use secret ballots for major procedural changes in the organization such as by-law revisions.

Running a meeting takes a great deal of preparation and attention to detail. This brief outline and tutorial will allow you to create your own framework.


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