A Comprehensive Guide to Achieving a Quorum


A Comprehensive Guide to Achieving a Quorum

Published: February 19, 2024
Read Time: 16 minutes

Comprehensive guide to achieving a quorum

In is comprehensive guide to achieving a quorum we’ll to provide extensive tips and strategies for achieving a quorum at meetings and assemblies of all types and sizes.

We cover establishing appropriate quorum requirements, utilising various methods to encourage member attendance, dealing with absences and vacancies, adapting when a quorum is not met, and creating a culture focused on participation and representation.

With thoughtful planning, effort, and commitment, leaders can work to consistently reach a quorum and allow their organisations to legitimately conduct official business and serve member interests.

What is a Quorum?

A quorum is the minimum number of members of a deliberative body necessary to conduct business or take a vote.

Achieving a quorum is crucial for organisations to operate effectively and make decisions democratically. However, attaining a quorum can often be challenging, especially for large groups or organisations where member participation is inconsistent.

Defining Quorum Requirements

The first key step in achieving a quorum is to define fair and reasonable quorum requirements for your specific organisation or assembly.

Quorum requirements can be formally established through an organisation’s bylaws, constitution, articles of incorporation, or other governing documents. Typical quorum requirements range from a simple majority (50% plus one) to two-thirds, three-fourths, or even higher percentages of total membership.

When determining quorum rules, consider the overall size and needs of your group. Larger assemblies and organisations, with say over 100 members, may be able to function fine with a simple majority quorum.

Smaller committees, boards, councils, etc. with less than 25 members often prefer higher quorum requirements of two-thirds to three-fourths membership. This ensures adequate representation and input when making impactful decisions. For mid-sized groups of around 25-100 members, a 60% quorum requirement is fairly common.

Regardless of group size, strike a strategic balance when setting quorum percentages. Requirements should be high enough to be truly representative of your membership, but not excessively difficult to attain in order to conduct routine business. A quorum that is unattainably high will result in many meetings being cancelled or postponed. err on the side of being reasonably inclusive, while still meeting participation needs.

Once official quorum requirements are established through bylaws or constitution amendments, communicate the quorum number or percentage clearly to all members.

Prominently include the specific quorum needed in every meeting announcement, notice, and agenda. Listing the quorum requirement explicitly removes ambiguity, reinforces its importance for conducting official business, and helps educate new members on participation expectations.

Encouraging Member Attendance

With official quorum requirements set, the next priority is encouraging consistent member attendance and participation to consistently meet or exceed that target at meetings.

There are many methods assemblies can use to promote member engagement and achieve quorum:

  • Schedule nd send notices well in advance - Members are much more likely to attend and make time for meetings if they receive ample advance notice. Utilising a Board Calendar can assist with this. Send out meeting or assembly notices at least 2-3 weeks in advance by mail, email, social media, phone calls, or via your board portal. Follow up with reminder notices closer to the date.

  • Highlight important agenda items - Draw special attention to agenda items and discussion topics that require member input, votes, and decisions. Highlighting matters that need their direct participation gives added incentive for attendance.

  • Be flexible and accommodating with scheduling - If possible, choose days, times, and locations that work best for the majority of members based on availability, work schedules, accessibility needs, transportation issues etc. Avoid holiday weekends and major community events.

  • Check in with members after absences - For members who miss one or more meetings, follow up to check in on reasons for absence and how meeting scheduling, formats, and accessibility can improve to facilitate their attendance going forward.

  • Provide remote participation options - If feasible, allow members to attend meetings virtually through video conferencing, live chat services, conference call dial-ins etc. This greatly improves accessibility for those unable to attend in-person.

  • Report on and celebrate quorum attainment - At the start of each meeting, report if a quorum has been established based on attendees present. Celebrate success when quorum is met and reinforce it as a priority.

  • Poll members on barriers to participation - Constructive feedback can reveal opportunities to remove barriers to attendance that leaders may not realise exist. Ask members directly for input through polls and surveys.

  • Offer food, childcare, transportation - Providing logistical supports like meals, babysitting services, rides, etc. can significantly ease participation challenges.

  • Use online participation tools - User-friendly apps and online portals (like the Our Cat Herder Board Portal )can expand access to meetings for remote users and generate engagement among tech-savvy members.

With persistence using these methods over time, organisations can boost meeting attendance, meet quorum goals, and develop a culture focused on participation.

Dealing with Absences and Vacancies

Despite best efforts, some member absences at meetings will be inevitable. Reasonable accommodation should be made for members balancing work, family, health issues, or other emergency priorities. Have a plan in place for dealing constructively with absences and vacancies to still be able to proceed with business.

Possible ways to address routine absences include:

  • Allow proxy votes - Bylaws may permit absent members to assign a proxy to another member to vote on their behalf at a given meeting. Proxies allow members to participate indirectly if unavailable. However, some groups prohibit proxy votes entirely to encourage in-person participation only.

  • Fill vacancies promptly - When elected or appointed seats become vacant due to resignations, make it a priority to identify and appoint replacements in a timely manner. The longer seats remain empty, the harder quorum is to reach.

  • Develop succession plans - Have contingency plans in place for seamless transition of responsibilities if key leaders and seasoned members leave suddenly or term out.

  • Reassess quorum rules - If quorum is repeatedly missed, consider recommending the assembly lower quorum limits through bylaw amendments. Just be sure any revised requirements remain high enough for adequate representation on important votes.

  • Automatically reschedule meetings as needed - Rather than fully canceling a meeting that does not establish a quorum, announce at its scheduled start that it will be automatically rescheduled for a near future date when more members can attend. This avoids unnecessary disruption to the assembly’s pending business.

Adapting When No Quorum is Achieved

At times, despite exhausting all efforts, meetings will still be held without the established quorum present. Rules and procedures vary on how assemblies should proceed in these situations. Typically, the options are:

  • Prohibit actions without quorum - Some assemblies strictly prohibit taking binding votes, authorising expenditures, finalising decisions, or conducting any official business without a quorum present. These matters are postponed until the next meeting when quorum is achieved.

  • Allow discussions to proceed - Other groups permit discussions, hearings, presentations, and exchanges of information to continue even without a quorum, but postpone any final actions or votes.

  • Sub Committee meetings may proceed - In sub committees or sub-groups, business can sometimes proceed as their recommendations are advisory rather than binding.

  • Draft proposals and recommendations - Time can be spent drafting proposals, resolutions, amendments, and recommendations for later review, revision, and formal approval when quorum is present.

  • Adjourn to a set date - If it becomes clear too few members will attend to achieve quorum, promptly adjourn the meeting and immediately announce firm plans to resume when more members can participate.

The specific procedures followed in absence of a quorum will depend on the assembly’s bylaws, rules of order, customs, and member expectations. The options above offer constructive ways to repurpose the time that still respects quorum requirements.

Fostering a Culture of Participation

More broadly, it is important to foster an organisational culture that values and priorities member participation, inclusion, and representation. Achieving a quorum should not be viewed as a box to check before conducting routine business. Rather, it is a symbol of your group’s commitment to democratic governance and servant leadership.

Consider the following ideas for encouraging a participatory culture in your organisation:

  • Share data on attendance trends at annual meetings to educate members. Discuss constructive ideas to improve turnout.

  • Profile individual members and recognise their contributions in newsletters or at meetings.

  • When members reach milestone attendance anniversaries, send a congratulatory letter or small memento.

  • During member recruitment drives, emphasise the organisation’s focus on participation, diversity, and inclusion. Highlight opportunities to actively contribute through committees, task forces, etc.

  • Develop a buddy program to partner newer members with veterans who can mentor them on meeting attendance, organisational history, leadership pathways, and ways to get involved.

  • For younger members, leverage technology and social media platforms they are comfortable with to generate engagement.

  • For older members less tech-savvy, offer tutorials and workshops on accessing online membership portals, video conferencing into meetings, and utilising other virtual participation tools. Provide hands-on assistance navigating these platforms.

  • During meetings, go beyond reciting attendance numbers. Take time to greet and recognise first-time attendees. Have veteran members and leadership personally connect with and thank newcomers for their participation.

  • When evaluating governing documents, bylaws, and rules of order, periodically reassess if any outdated provisions create unnecessary barriers to participation that could be updated.

  • Consider offering tiered membership categories at various contribution or dues levels so cost is not a prohibitive factor for participation. Have sliding scale or voluntary options.

  • Provide extensive accommodations for members with disabilities to facilitate attendance and service in leadership roles. This includes wheelchair access, ASL translation, screen reader compatibility, scent-free facilities, etc.

  • For working parents, provide onsite childcare at meetings and events or assist with reimbursement for babysitters, allowing entire families to participate.

  • To respect important religious observances, examine meeting days, times, locations, and food service to remove participation barriers.

The culture of an organisation starts from the top. Leaders and veteran members should role model welcoming attitudes, ethical governance practices, and enthusiastic participation to motivate newcomers. Promoting an engaging and inclusive environment at all levels will compound over time.

Adapting to Emergencies and Disruptions

In certain extraordinary circumstances, the regular procedures for establishing a quorum may be impacted by emergencies, disasters, pandemics, or civil disruptions. In these situations, working to achieve quorum to conduct business may need to take a backseat to ensuring all members’ safety and access to essential services.

When faced with crises and chaos, exercising flexibility with rules and exercising compassion in leadership is advisable. Possible ways to adapt include:

  • Authorise temporary emergency protocols allowing critical decisions to be made without an in-person quorum, if absolutely necessary for crisis response and management.

  • Decentralise authority and empower committees, divisions, or local chapters to take limited actions as needed for their constituents’ welfare, subject to later review.

  • Utilise all available virtual tools for remote meetings if gathering in-person is hazardous or impossible. But try to give ample notice and provide technical support to ensure accessibility.

  • If legal and beneficial, temporarily reduce quorum requirements to lower thresholds that account for disruptions in participation, but which still represent members.

  • Be prepared to further postpone non-urgent business until the crisis stabilises and regular participation can safely resume.

  • Frequently communicate with members about emergency protocols, avenues for remote input, resources for assistance, and plans for eventually transitioning back to normal procedures.

While these crisis adaptations may depart from standard rules, they uphold the spirit of democratic representation and continuity of operations during turmoil. Reasonable allowances preserve members’ confidence and unity.

Returning to Normal Procedures

Once emergency conditions improve, it will be important to purposefully transition back to normal rules and procedures, including standard quorum requirements. To reopen thoughtfully:

  • Set a clear date after which emergency rules and accommodations will expire. Announce well in advance to avoid surprises.

  • Conduct extensive outreach to all members to reengage them in in-person participation and convey the importance of their involvement moving forward.

  • Develop and announce a fair, inclusive plan for phasing out remote participation options post-crisis if these were only temporary accommodations. Hybrid meetings may be possible depending on needs.

  • Acknowledge feelings of fatigue members may still be experiencing. Balance restoring pre-crisis practices with compassion. Be flexible if full engagement takes time to rebuild.

  • Look for opportunities to adapt and evolve practices to be more participatory coming out of the crisis, based on lessons learned and new priorities.

  • Celebrate with members the collective perseverance to maintain operations and connection amid disruptions. Let this shared experience strengthen your group’s focus on representation, transparency, and democracy.

With member well-being at the forefront, organisations can withstand even major disruptions and eventually return to full participatory operations. Keeping communication open and compassionate is key.

Key Takeaways and Best Practices

Below are some key recommended practices for making quorum a priority and reaching attainable targets:

  • Research and establish quorum rules that are reasonable and representative for your group’s size and culture. err on the side of greater inclusion.

  • Communicate quorum numbers/percentages frequently through all meeting announcements and notices.

  • Send notices far in advance, be accommodating in scheduling when possible, and report on quorum at meetings.

  • Poll members directly on barriers to participation and ideas to improve.

  • Promptly fill vacancies, develop succession plans, and allow proxies if permitted.

  • Reschedule or repurpose meetings lacking quorum rather than fully cancelling.

  • Adapt quorum requirements over time if chronically missed.

  • Celebrate quorum achievement as a milestone and priority for your group.

With a combination of thoughtful planning, member engagement, adaptable procedures, and commitment to consistent participation, assemblies have an excellent chance of regularly achieving quorum for meetings and votes.


Achieving quorum for meetings and votes is a critical priority for any member-driven assembly seeking democratic self-governance.

Tailoring quorum rules, encouraging attendance through multiple means, adapting to vacancies, repurposing meetings lacking quorum, and building an inclusive culture of participation will position any organisation for representation, engagement, and ethical leadership.

With commitment to these best practices, any assembly can develop the member participation needed to thrive and prevail through whatever challenges may arise.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is considered a quorum?

A quorum refers to the minimum number of members required to be present for a deliberative body to conduct official business. Quorum establishes that enough of the membership is present to move forward with agenda items, discussions, hearings, and votes legitimately. Quorum requirements vary but often range from 50-75% of total membership. They aim to ensure adequate representation on matters needing the group's input and decision-making. Establishing quorum means the assembly is now equipped to take action and exercise its collective authority.

What does it mean when someone says we have a quorum?

When it is announced that a meeting or assembly has a quorum, it means the specific minimum number of members needed to proceed are present and accounted for. This declaration signifies the group can now legitimately and democratically conduct its scheduled business, including debates, votes, elections, hearings, and other agenda items. The members present constitute sufficient representation of the entire body to take actions on its behalf. Announcing a quorum gives assurance that the proceedings that follow will be official and binding since the threshold for representative participation has been reached.

What is the meaning of quorum in one word?

If explaining quorum in just one word, that word would be 'representation'. A quorum ensures substantial representation of an assembly is present, enabling it to act as the collective voice of the members.

What is the quorum of the meeting?

The quorum of a meeting refers to the specific minimum number of attendees required for the meeting to count as an official gathering where business can be conducted. The quorum number is often defined in an organisation's bylaws as a percentage or proportion of the full membership. Verifying quorum at the start of the meeting means enough members are present for votes, motions, elections, and other actions to proceed democratically on behalf of the group. The quorum makes the meeting valid.

What is the minimum quorum for a general meeting?

For a general meeting of a large association, society, or assembly, a commonly recommended minimum quorum is one-third of all members. This minimum threshold balances adequate representation of the full membership with reasonable expectations for routine participation. While a simple majority (50% plus one) is also reasonable for general meetings, one-third quorum allows some flexibility for incidental absences while still constituting a critical mass to conduct most business. For smaller boards and committees, higher minimums like a majority or two-thirds may be advisable to ensure strong participation.

What is the minimum quorum for?

A minimum quorum in an organisation serves to validate that a sufficient number of members are present to represent the interests of the entire constituency. Conducting votes, appropriations, elections, and major decisions without adequate representation undermines democracy and member confidence. A minimum quorum compels organisations to base their actions on the collective will of a sizeable group of invested members, rather than just a vocal minority. The minimum quorum protects against disenfranchisement of those absent and upholds standards of ethical, member-driven governance.

How is a quorum determined for a membership organisation?

A membership organisation's quorum is determined through provisions in their governing documents, such as bylaws, constitution, or articles of incorporation. These documents outline the specific number or percentage of members required for a quorum. Common bases are a percentage of all voting members or a set number of members. Factors considered when setting the quorum include organisation size, type of business conducted, and preferred level of representation. Bylaws also outline the procedures for certifying that a quorum is present, such as checking against member rolls or registry. Rules should balance democratic inclusion with practical expectations.

What percentage is usually required for quorum?

While specific quorum percentage requirements vary, some general common practices have emerged. For smaller boards and councils, high quorum requirements of 66-75% are advisable to ensure strong participation. Medium-sized assemblies commonly use a 60-66% quorum. For very large organisations, a simple majority of 50% plus one may suffice for routine business. However, lowering quorum percentages too far risks under-representation on major decisions. Many groups also distinguish routine vs. special quorums for different meeting purposes. But in all cases, the percentage should represent fair participation.

Can business be conducted without a quorum?

In most organisations, current best practices prohibit conducting official business without achieving quorum. Taking binding votes, appropriating funds, electing leaders, adopting resolutions, and enacting policies without adequate representation goes against principles of democratic governance. However, some groups do permit discussions, hearings, presentations, and non-binding votes to proceed even if quorum is not met. This at least allows information exchange and progress on drafting proposals. But all final actions and approval are postponed until quorum is present.

What strategies help groups achieve quorum consistently?

Strategies for consistently achieving quorum include sending ample notices, scheduling accessibly, allowing remote participation, following up with absentees, promptly filling vacancies, celebrating quorum achievement, and cultivating a culture focused on inclusion. Orgs should also reassess quorum rules that prove unrealistic. While not easy, making quorum an ongoing priority and adapting practices over time can lead to high member engagement and ethical governance.

How does technology assist with attaining quorum remotely?

Technology enables greater participation by allowing remote attendance that still counts towards quorum. Live video and audio conferencing via platforms like Zoom, WebEx, etc. accommodate members unable to attend in-person. Communication apps help organise attendance drives. Online membership or board portals centralise key info and document access. When leveraged appropriately, technology solutions can support representation and engagement from any location.

Ready to run a better board? Start your free 45-day trial today.