A quorum is the minimum number of people who must be present for the meeting to transact any business. The quorum is normally in the constitution of an organisation or sometimes in the By-Laws.
Traditionally it used to be one more than half of the possible membership but as organisations became bigger that became an unworkable number. For instance, if you had a sports club with 300 members, it meant you had to have 151 people at a meeting for it to be able to do anything. It is more common nowadays for a quorum to be a specific number.
One of the first things a person chairing a meeting should do is count to see if there is a quorum. Experienced people will often start their meetings by saying “We have a quorum and so I declare the meeting open”.
If you do not have a quorum there are several things you can do.
1. You can wait for 15 minutes to see if more people arrive.
2. You can just pack up and go home.
3. You can begin discussing things informally and you can even make informal decisions but they cannot be acted upon – yet. If you choose this option then someone should take informal notes of the decision so it can be brought forward at the next meeting when there is a quorum and then it is effectively decided.
The best option is number 3. Since you have some people there, you may as well begin your deliberations on the issues but you must understand that the meeting is not officially running, so you can take no action based on the decisions.
No minutes are kept of meetings which do not have a quorum.
Please Note: The author accepts no responsibility for anything which occurs directly or indirectly as a result of using any of the suggestions or procedures detailed in this blog. This is not, and should be taken as legal advice. All suggestions and procedures are provided in good faith as general guidelines only and should be used in conjunction with relevant legislation, constitutions, rules, laws, by-laws, and with reasonable judgement. If you are in any doubt, seek appropriate advice.