Robert Rules - Nonprofit Ally

Roberts Rules is an essential tool for any nonprofit organization. It doesn’t matter if you “make a motion” in a board room or while sipping coffee at a kitchen table.

Here is a quick self-assessment tool. You should use Roberts Rules if:

  • You find yourself wondering “where to go from here” during your meetings
  • Your meetings regularly stray from topics of conversation
  • Even short agenda’s take hours to accomplish
  • Your by-laws state you will use Roberts Rules
  • Your meeting minutes are missing important parts of previous meetings
  • You are looking to build capacity (do more – more efficiently)
  • Your board has a member with a “strong personality” who tends to dominant conversations

1. Roberts Rules are a Road Map

Roberts Rules will help give your meetings structure by giving you a proven process to follow during your meetings. There are procedures within Roberts Rules that will help you run meetings in an efficient and professional manner. Just follow the process.

Start using Roberts Rules and, in just a few months, your meetings will go faster and more tasks will get done.

2. Meeting Minutes Made Easy

It can be difficult to track what is being said at a meeting when the conversation strays from topic. By using motions, in accordance with Roberts Rules, the tracking of meetings becomes easier to document. And straying off topic, a common problem for many boards, becomes easier to recognize and correct.

Your board secretary will thank you for the structure of a more formalized process.

3. Everyone Has a Voice

The process of Roberts Rules ensures that everyone has an opportunity to speak on a topic. A good meeting facilitator will use Roberts Rules to check in with every person at the table and give them the chance to speak.

It can also limit the amount of opportunities someone can speak on a topic. The idea of limiting the number of times members can speak on a topic has advantages:

  • Members will learn to be more on point and thorough when it is there turn to speak;
  • It can quicken the decision making process without sacrificing the opportunity to share information;
  • It can help prevent members, who are determined to have the last word, from repeating the same points over and over.

4. Roberts Rules Means Freedom

I know it sounds funny to think that a more formal process will result in more freedom, but it is true. Anyone who has run a meeting, at some point, has found themselves more caught up in the “running the meeting” that actually paying attention to what is being discussed. But with a firm grasp of Roberts Rules, the meeting facilitator can relax and let Robert Rules run the meeting for them. This will allow them to play a more active role in the meeting itself.

5. Your By-laws Say You Should Use Roberts Rules

About 80% of all volunteer association’s by-laws state that they will use Roberts Rules to run their meetings. Chances are your suppose to be using them too.

Roberts rules can seem too formal and stuffy for some people. But the rules can be adjusted to the needs and “personality” of your organization. The important thing is to have a process by which you run meetings and accomplish the work that is before you. The more you repeat this process, the more efficient your meetings will become and the more effective you will be at accomplishing your mission.


I served a couple terms on our local city government. I had to take a crash course in Roberts Rules. Fortunately the city provided elected officials with The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Robert’s Rules, 2nd Edition. I also ended up reading Robert’s Rules For Dummies. Both books were very helpful.


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