Motion Making Basics

Ack! You’ve got your first meeting coming up and you haven’t the slightest clue about making a motion! Not to worry. While advance motion making can be complex, most people and meetings don’t operate at that level. So, let’s go over the basics of seeing a motion from start to finish. If you are a visual learner or want to take a cheat sheet with you, you might take a look at this Motion Making Flow Chart.

So let’s say the Board has just heard a report about how much the executive director of a very large national organization has been spending in mileage reimbursement and in that report it suggested various remedies from keeping things as is to the extreme end of purchasing a plane. Reducing travel is not an option for advancing the mission of the organization. There were some clarifying questions and answers heard by the group regarding the report. It seems like those in the room are leaning towards purchasing a company car for the executive director to use and everyone is just kinda talking about it. So how do you actually make this happen? Make a motion! A good motion answers the following if possible:

  • Who?
  • What?
  • When?
  • Where?
  • Why?
  • How?

So, a possible motion could be:

I move that the President (who) is authorized to purchase a 4-door vehicle (what) that does not cost more than $40,000 using the cash reserves (how). The purchase needs to be completed by December 31 of this year (when) so that the Executive Director may have a vehicle to use (why) before the start of the next fiscal year (when).

Either somebody will second this, or if there is not a second automatically heard, the chair may ask, “Is there a second?”. If no second is heard, then the motion is not discussed any further.

If it is seconded, then a member of the group can make an adjustment to the motion. Let’s say that someone wants to add the “where” component to the motion and they say

“The President (who) is authorized to purchase a 4-door vehicle (what) that does not cost more than $40,000 using the cash reserves (how) from a dealership or individual located within a 50 mile radius of headquarters (where). The purchase needs to be completed by December 31 (when) of this year so that the Executive Director may have a vehicle to use (why) before the start of the next fiscal year (when).”

You as the motion maker have the option to either accept this addition or reject it. If accepted, then debate begins with this addition. If rejected, then debate begins as originally motioned. Debate ends when one of two things happens:

  1. A person moves to “call the question.” It takes 2/3 affirmative vote to close debate.
  2. There’s nothing left to discuss.

When debate ends, the chair should restate the motion or ask the motion maker or secretary to restate the motion. At this time the chair may also clarify consequences of the vote. In this hypothetical example, the chair may clarify that the affirmative of this vote will reduce the reserves up to $40,000.

The chair will call for a vote.

  1. “All those in favor say, Aye.”
  2. “All those opposed say, Nay.”
  3. “All those abstaining, say Aye.”

The chair then announces the results of the vote, and in this scenario, the chair believes the “nays” have the majority.

But wait! Let’s say that it sounded 50/50 to you and so you don’t agree with the chair that the majority said “Nay” or at least there’s some doubt in your mind. Then there’s no better time than now to shout “Division of the Assembly!!!” When this happens, the chair will have to take the vote again. This time, the chair should opt for a visual (standing vote) or by show of hand (counting vote) as opposed to an audible vote.

Best wishes during your first meeting! You got this!


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