Planning and conducting an annual general meeting
The Annual General meeting (AGM) is an important event for every organisation. It gives its members, the general public and the committee a broad overview of the organisation's current directions, financial health and confirms its purpose. It is also the time to revitalise the organisation through the official engagement of members into key elected positions.
Most importantly, the organisation should try to make the AGM a positive experience where people go away firmly committed to the organisation and its goals.
Benefits of holding an AGM
An annual general meeting will assist your organisation to:
- Comply with government regulations
If you are an incorporated association, the legislation in most Australian states requires you to hold an AGM.
For further clarification on legislation consult the ourcommunity.com.au helpsheets on Incorporation for your state or territory.
At the meeting you need to validly elect key office-bearers. Usually the legislation will specify the election of what is called the Public Officer. Depending on the size and nature of the organisation, the AGM is the time to publicly elect the Chairperson, Deputy Chairperson, Secretary, and Treasurer and other board and management committees' members.
Presentation of Accounts
You will need to present the annual accounts to the members in a standard format. Again, legislation in most states provides that you must have your accounts audited if your budget is above a certain level. If you are below this level, you can still have your accounts audited; it may be more expensive, but it provides some assurance that nothing has been overlooked that is likely to damage the organisation.
Most Australian states require you to send in an annual report after your AGM. The content varies from state to state - some just want the accounts, some ask for a list of office bearers, some charge extra for the forms or the lodgement.
- Be transparent
Whether you are an incorporated association or not, organisations need to be accountable to the public and to their members. This is your opportunity to report on the results of your strategic plan. Did you achieve all your expected outcomes over the past year and what you do you plan to do in the next as a result.
- Communicate with members
The AGM provides a good opportunity for the office bearers and the management to interact with the membership - to answer their questions and seek their views. Ordinary members are able to raise their concerns and participate. There should, of course, be opportunities for members to be involved throughout the year, but the AGM provides a minimum safety net to make certain that this is not overlooked in the rush of work. You may wish to send special invitations to local dignitaries, local members, and donors and prospective donors.
- Raise awareness
In some cases the AGM can be used to gain publicity for the organisation. For example if you have a guest speaker or an announcement that you think may be of more general interest than just to your own membership. You could prepare and circulate a press release. (See the Ourcommunity.com.au's helpsheet on Preparing a Press Release).
This must be handled with care - as many AGM's can bring up quite sensitive issues, that you may not wish to publicise. You must weigh up your priorities for promoting the organisation carefully.
Preparation for an
The AGM is usually organised by the Secretary, with assistance from the rest of the organisation, but this can be altered if someone else volunteers. It is important, though, that everybody in the organisation knows who is responsible.
The date of the AGM may be set by the legislation - within three months of the end of the financial year, for example and even if it is not, it is still a good idea to have the meeting in August or September, while the financial statements are still fresh.
If you are an incorporated association, the legislation in most Australian states requires that you advertise your AGM to your members two weeks or a month beforehand, by mail. There used to be a requirement that you also advertise it in a newspaper circulating in your area.
Though an advertisement is not now required by law, you may consider doing it anyway to encourage public involvement and an inclusive atmosphere. A small block in the classifieds is enough. Give the name of the association and the place, date and time of the meeting.
Officebearers and Committee
Confirm which of your current office-bearers will be re-nominating for the coming year and who will be retiring. Check your constitution to see if anybody's ineligible to stand.
If there are vacancies, make sure that you have approached people who are willing to fill them and remember that there may be people who come forward at the meeting itself.
Most importantly try to ensure that you have enough good nominations to fill the available positions.
If people are to be nominated in their absence have them sign a document saying that they are willing to stand.
For more clues on how to strategically recruit potential office-bearers consult the ourcommunity.com.au helpsheet on Board recruitment.
If you are required or decide to present an audit of your accounts at the AGM, leave enough time for the auditor to go through your books and prepare your accounts. Make an appointment well in advance; this is a busy time for auditors. Ensure that the auditor knows the exact date of the AGM.
Have a nomination ready for the position of next year's auditor from somebody who you have approached and who is willing to act.
If you are intending to put on a bit of a show for your members or the press - with a guest speaker, a video showing, or an important announcement - organise it well in advance so that you can be sure that everybody knows what they are supposed to be doing and you have all the necessary technical equipment in good working order.
Prepare the following documents and post them out to all members and office bearers in advance of the meeting:
- A set of accounts - balance sheet and financial statement - in the required format.
- Annual Report
The organisation's annual report must contain the accounts, and should contain
-a summary of the year's activities
-a record of the year's achievements
-a preview of what is planned for the next year
-a restatement of the organisation's vision.
- Agenda consisting of:
- Welcome by chairperson
- Confirmation of minutes of the previous AGM
- Business arising from the minutes
- Chairperson's report
- Treasurer's report and presentation of audited financial statement
- Election of Office Bearers
- General business
- Guest speaker (if any)
- Date of next meeting (if known)
The relevant minutes are the minutes from the previous AGM, not the previous Committee meeting.
The procedures at the AGM are basically the same as those at an ordinary committee meeting.
Motions must be moved
-to accept the minutes of the last AGM
-to approve the Chairperson's report (the Annual Report)
-to approve the Treasurer's report (the Financial Statement)
Motions must be seconded, and a vote (generally a show of hands) taken.
Nominations must be called for from the floor for Office bearers - Chairperson, Deputy Chairperson, Secretary and Treasurer - and Committee members. If more than one person nominates for any office, or if there are more nominations than there are committee places, there must be an election. Election can be through a show of hands or by secret ballot.
Special procedural provisions
The only special procedural provisions at an AGM are that:
- the quorum may be different (consult your constitution)
- if the position of Chairperson is being contested, the Chairperson should stand down from the Chair during the election and be replaced by an acting Chairperson (someone who is not standing for any position) specially elected just for the period of the election)
Guest speakers can be people you want to impress those at the meeting, or people you want to be impressed by the meeting, or both.
If your organisation lends itself to visual presentation, consider preparing a display of your work during the year.
Make sure that the minutes are written up shortly after the meeting. If (as sometimes happens) they are left to the evening before the mailout, the Secretary may have difficulty finding last year's notes.
Ensure that you send any necessary documentation, for example the audited statement and change of public officer to the appropriate state/territory government department.
Retiring office bearers must hand over the operations to the new person, together with all documents, rubber stamps, bank details, etc. Retiring officers should also give their successors briefings describing key processes and current priorities and challenges.
If any of the people who are retiring from the Committee are signatories to the organisation's bank account, try and have the necessary forms on hand so that the new signatories can be authorised after the meeting.
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