Because the Parent Teacher Association is a registered 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, taking complete and accurate minutes at PTA meetings is required by the Internal Revenue Service. According to the Foundation Group, which provides nonprofit groups with professional services, a lack of meeting minutes “would allow the IRS (and the general public) to question the organization’s compliance in following the organization’s bylaws.” Beyond offering legal protection, meeting minutes serve as evidence of a group’s achievements and provide a track record of how decisions were made. They also document future action items to help ensure that work gets done.
Structured vs. Informal
If your PTA follows Robert's Rules of Order -- a process of proposing, discussing and voting on motions -- you should find it much easier to take meeting minutes, as all major actions will be organized by motions and the resulting votes. According to PTO Today, “With motions, there’s a clear ‘yeah’ or ‘nay’ vote that makes it obvious to all whether a proposal has been approved or denied.” Your meeting minutes will primarily consist of the results of each vote. Robert's Rules of Order dictate other procedures that should also be noted in your meeting minutes, such as if the PTA takes a recess or suspends the rules to expedite a vote.
If your PTA operates more informally, it can be more difficult to keep track of what occurs during the meeting. Regardless of how your PTA conducts business, there are important steps to follow to take effective meeting minutes:
Record Meeting Essentials
Note the date, time and place of meeting; the names of the presiding officers and all members in attendance; and the names of all guests in attendance. An electronic or preprinted template with designated areas for this information is helpful.
Rely on the Agenda
Most PTA boards will supply a meeting agenda in advance. Use this agenda to organize your notes so they will be easier to decipher later on.
Be Brief and Concise
Don’t write down every word spoken. Capture the essence of the discussions and be sure to capture the decisions made. Record all main motions, including the name of the individual making the motion.
Ask for Clarification
If you need to verify the correct spelling of someone’s name or are unclear as to the consensus reached by the group, ask during the meeting. Waiting until later poses the risk that you won’t be able to track people down.
Document the Next Steps
Whether motions are approved or not, future action items will likely be required, such as a discussion being tabled until further research is completed. Write down what those next steps are, including the individuals involved.
Finalize Minutes Within 24 Hours
The sooner you revisit your notes, the easier you’ll be able to recall what they meant -- especially if you wrote in shorthand.
Be Objective and Factual
Stick to the facts. Don’t include your opinion.
It might be helpful to have a friend or colleague who wasn’t in attendance review your meeting minutes. If they’re able to clearly understand what occurred, you’re in good shape.
Send meeting minutes within two business days to your PTA’s leaders. They’ll review for errors or omissions before the minutes are sent to the larger group. You’ll also need to bring copies for formal approval to the next PTA meeting.
File According to Established Procedure
Some PTAs require filing both hard and soft copies of meeting minutes. Find out your PTA's process so you’re keeping correct records of approved minutes.
Based in Kansas City, Kelli Bamforth has spent her career writing and editing for various newspapers, magazines, nonprofits and corporations. An aspiring novelist, she holds a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from Park University and currently writes full-time for a leader in the financial services industry.