What should VFW post adjutants put in VFW meeting minutes and what to leave out?
By Charles M. Pickett
Source material on page two of this long post.
While a VFW quartermaster keeps the “books,” the adjutant keeps the “records.” One of the vital records of a deliberative assembly are meeting minutes.
There are five things VFW adjutants should know about VFW meeting minutes:
- they are a record of what was done at the meeting, not what was said by the members
- they are not a transcript
- they are legal documents
- they can be very brief
- they should be just the facts; they should never reflect the adjutant’s opinion
For guidance, adjutants should reference post, district, department, and the national VFW Bylaws and Manual of Procedure for information on distributing (reading), correcting, and maintaining meeting minutes.
Additionally, VFW adjutants should look to Robert’s Rules of Order Newly Revised (12th ed) for instructions on how to prepare meeting minutes. In 2017, the VFW adopted Robert’s Rules as its parliamentary authority moving from Demeter’s Manual of Parliamentary Law and Procedure. Robert’s gives explicit details on what should be in meeting minutes (Robert’s 446).
Robert’s discusses how a particular practice may have become an established custom in an organization (“because this is how we always have done it”)–including the preparation of VFW meeting minutes. However, if this custom “is or becomes in conflict with the parliamentary authority or any written rule” then it “falls to the ground” if challenged by a point of order in any meeting (VFW 19).
For example, the VFW Bylaws mandate, “All reports and resolutions shall be in writing” (111). If the post custom is to make oral reports or resolutions, a point of order challenging this oversight should make this practice “fall to the ground.” Adjutants must exactly record what is “stated by the presiding officer” after a motion is properly presented and seconded.
However, there are tactful ways detailed in Robert’s to get an oral report, resolution, or motion ironed out before a second is made or the chair states the question (also, the adjutant can verbally read back the motion and get consensus and avoid amendments–but that’s really the chair’s job).
Format of the Minutes
Robert’s lists a number of items that should be in the first paragraph of meeting minutes: kind of meeting; name of organization; date, time and place; if the regular chairman and secretary were present or their subs; and correction of the minutes. The VFW order of business has the reading of the minutes later in the meeting so they are not included in the first paragraph. This is an example of the VFW Bylaws superseding Robert’s.
The regular monthly meeting of the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States New Haven Post 12150 Incorporated was held on Thursday, June 11, 2020, at 7:10 p.m., at the Knights of St. Patrick building, the commander being in the chair and the adjutant present.Example first paragraph of VFW post minutes for regular meeting.
Body of Minutes
- Roll Call of Officers
- Quartermaster report
- Service Officer report
- Committee reports
- Unfinished business
- New business
- Nominations, elections and installation of officers
- *The name and subject of a guest speaker can be given, but no effort should be made to summarize his remarks
The last paragraph should have the hour of adjournment. Additionally, the minutes should be signed by the adjutant.
The meeting adjourned at 7:50 p.m.
Charles Pickett, Adjutant.“Respectfully submitted” is an older and not essential practice in signing the minutes–but widely used.