This article is part of the following categories:
How-To Articles Meetings/Robert's Rules Secretary

  • Print  Print 
    AddThis Social Bookmark Button

How To Take Meeting Minutes

How To Take Minutes

What to write down and what not to, plus tips to make the job easier.

by Christy Forhan

Minutes are the official permanent record of the business of your parent group. It is the PTO secretary’s job to make sure they are accurate yet concise. Minutes are intended to document the outcome of business decisions (i.e., motions), not every word of discussion leading up to the decision, so you don’t need to learn shorthand to take minutes.

It is appropriate to take minutes at every formal meeting of the PTO, including executive board and general membership meetings. Some large committees might also find it helpful to take minutes during their meetings to ensure there is a record of important decisions made by the committee. Minutes also help future PTO leaders understand how the PTO has operated in the past.

Downloadable Sample Meeting Minutes

Structure every set of minutes with this standard format:

  • Name of your PTO
  • Date of meeting
  • Time of meeting
  • Place of meeting
  • Name of presiding officer (“meeting was called to order by president Amy Johnson at 7:05 p.m.”)
  • Members in attendance and whether a quorum was reached
  • Names of any guests in attendance
  • Time of adjournment
  • Name of secretary who prepared the minutes

To Make It Easier

If you take your notes on paper during the meeting, start with a preprinted page with the heading already filled out.

Prepare a template file on your computer with the standard headings and major section titles already inserted. Use this blank file to start each new set of minutes.

Identify new sets of minutes on your computer by naming the file with the type of meeting and the date of meeting (e.g., “EXEC BOARD 051510”). Save the files in a folder on your computer reserved just for PTO minutes.

Use a laptop to take notes during the meeting only if you are comfortable and quick on the computer. You don’t want to miss anything important because you are struggling with the keyboard or spell-checker.

Don’t be afraid to interrupt the meeting to ask for the proper spelling of names. It is far more awkward for a member to see her name butchered in last month’s minutes than it is for you to ask her to spell it correctly while you are taking notes.

Proper Content of Minutes

Following Robert’s Rules of Order, the business of a PTO is conducted by proposing, discussing, and voting on motions. Under this format, the minutes of a meeting focus on the content and outcome of the motions. With motions, there’s a clear “yea” or “nay” vote that makes it obvious to all whether a proposal has been approved or denied.

However, many parent groups operate more informally and don’t use motions to drive their meetings. In this case, it is more difficult to decide what should be and what shouldn’t be included in your minutes. If your group runs its meetings without motions, keep in mind these basic rules:

  • Be concise.
  • Be accurate.
  • Don’t try to summarize discussion or who said what.
  • Document major decisions and ensure that the participants agree with your understanding of the decision. If you’re in doubt, speak up to clarify whether a decision has been made.
  • Finalize the minutes in a timely fashion.

For each motion, list the complete wording of the motion and the outcome of the motion (approved, defeated, tabled). You may also include the name of the person making the motion, but it’s not necessary. If you do decide to include names, be consistent and include them for all motions.

Do not include the name of the person who seconded the motion. Do not summarize the discussion of the motion. Do not attribute discussion or comments to individuals. Do not include editorial comments about the nature of the discussion. Just indicate whether the motion passed or not.

Do include the name of the speaker and the name of any committee that presents a report, along with a very brief (one or two sentences) summary of the committee’s report. Attach a copy of any committee’s formal report as part of the permanent record of this meeting.

Do include the name and title of any guest speaker at your meeting, along with the topic of the speaker’s presentation. Do not try to summarize the speaker’s presentation in your minutes. Attach any handout from the speaker as part of the permanent record of the meeting.

After the Meeting

Finalize your minutes quickly, preferably within 24 hours of the meeting. The faster you return to your notes, the easier they will be to decipher.

Send a copy of your draft minutes to the executive officers for preliminary approval. They should be on the lookout for errors or omissions.

Print a copy of your minutes and file them chronologically in a binder reserved just for your PTO’s minutes.

File an electronic copy in a folder on your computer reserved just for PTO minutes.

Distribute the minutes after the meeting using email or through your PTO’s website. Bring a copy to the next meeting for review and approval. Technically, the minutes are not finalized until the membership votes to approve them at the next meeting.

If you need to make corrections after you have finalized the minutes, be sure to update the copy in your permanent secretary file, too.

Save a copy of any handouts or reports presented by committees or guest speakers at your PTO meeting. Include those documents with the corresponding meeting minutes in your permanent files.

Christy Forhan is a veteran PTO leader who has served as president and treasurer, among other roles, at schools in West Bloomfield, Mich.

Rate This Article:

(30 Votes)

Comments

  1. avatar

    Posted by Craig on Mar. 20, 2014

    Hi collins -- Here's another link for you. This one is sample meeting minutes from an actual PTO meeting. Good luck!

    http://www.ptotoday.com/filesharing/document/1623-sample-general-meeting-minutes-
  2. avatar

    Posted by Rose C on Mar. 17, 2014

    Hi collins!
    When you are taking notes during the meeting, be concise and remember you don't have to get every detail down. If someone makes a suggestion, you can write: A parent suggested we take a look at XX as a fundraiser and the board said it would take a look and discuss at another time. Not every quote and back/forth statement needs to be written down. Do write down a motion and record the results -- if the motion was seconded, for example. This article gives more specifics of the dos and don'ts of meeting minutes and I think you'll find it helpful: http://www.ptotoday.com/pto-today-articles/article/165-meeting-minutes-dos-and-donts. Good luck!
  3. Posted by - collins on Mar. 16, 2014

    How do I write suggestions,questions and motion made in the minute of a meeting.
  4. Posted by - collins on Mar. 16, 2014

    How do I state suggestions and questions asked in a minute of a pta meeting as the secretary. Please if a sample can be given it would make this a bit easier. It feels nervous the first time.
  5. avatar

    Posted by Rose C on Mar. 08, 2014

    The new secretary could read the minutes. Or, the president.
  6. Posted by - collins o on Mar. 08, 2014

    in a situation where the former recording secretary left on AWOL and you have been appointed the new secretary, how do you go by it, that is in reading of the minutes of the last meeting?
  7. Posted by - dclaudew on Oct. 10, 2012

    I agree with with both the author and bugga1989. For board meetings with active officers, just the facts are adequate, as the author states. But that is woefully insufficient for PTA/O meetings attended by infrequent volunteers. Many people miss some meetings, but still want to know what happened so they can stay in the loop. So bugga1989 is correct that longer, explanatory minutes go a long way in getting such absentees ready for the next meeting. To be effective, the longer, informative minutes have to be published to the website or the email blaster within a few days of the meeting. That is, if you wait a month to publish, you might as well publish the minimum, because any minutes are stale by then.
  8. Posted by - Fanny on Aug. 23, 2012

    My essential business app on iPad to organize my work and take minutes is Beesy . It helps me to organize my day with tasks, toDo list automatically generated. Very useful also in meetings to don’t miss a thing. You can add quickly and easily every tasks during meetings. You can also send your meeting report at the end by mail. I hightly recommend it http://www.beesapps.com/beesy-ipad-to-do/
  9. avatar

    Posted by InvolvedinNC on Aug. 10, 2012

    when we are looking at minutes fro last meeting to approve, and there are changes, should we make a motion to approve with noted changes, or simply ask the secretary to bring them back corrected to the next meeting for approval? and if we do carry a motion to approve with noted changes, does the secretary still go back and back all changes in the electronic versions, and record copies? thanx! just trying to get things in order, accurate, and consistent!
  10. Posted by - Angelina Kissoon on Nov. 02, 2011

    This is great information! Thanks
  11. avatar

    Posted by buggal1989 on Sep. 12, 2011

    We are a very small school and don't have a PTO Board.
    Part 2 (I am soooooo wordy!)

    And I am instituting Event/Program/Team Reports this year with all the little details of how much food, etc. so we will have a tickler file. I've sstarted posting our minutes on our Facebook page and hope to have all our documents there by the end of the year. This way when I leave again I am sure my "how to" folder is passed on to the next person. We hold elections in the fall, but I hope to change that this year so we can have a handoff and the new person has the summer to bone up on her (we SELDOM have men in charge of anything, go figure!) responsiblities and they will be WRITTEN down. Teams are new this year too. .
  12. avatar

    Posted by buggal1989 on Sep. 12, 2011

    First of all, I guess I'm taking minutes ALL WRONG!!! I always put the reason we decided to do something different, what worked, what didn't, and why we chose not to do something. I hope that this will help the people who come behind me avoid making my mistakes!!!! I still keep them to two or three pages report included. our planning meeting was 4 pages.

    Just think this is so important. of course there were no minutes when I checked back in at my kid's school year before last (this isn't my first rodeo!) ao I kinda had to rely on what people remembered and that wasn't fun!!!! Just my view on things. Who's right and who's wrong? That's for each of us to say for ourselves. I think BOTH ARE RIGHT and you should have BOTH options availiable.
  13. avatar

    Posted by lauravel1 on Jun. 22, 2011

    Does anyone know how long a PTSO needs to keep copies of the minutes for? I recently went in to clean up our files and have found minutes dating back to the 80's!!! I would really like to be able to purge our files and make more room. But do not want to throw way anything that I legally need to save.

Add Comment