Doing away with our AGM

In principle, your Annual General Meeting should be about engagement, accountability and procedure. But if it doesn’t deliver that in practice, it’s time to think again, says Vicky Browning, ACEVO’s CEO

It was an off-hand comment from a member that sealed the deal for me. As we waited anxiously for confirmation that ACEVO’s 2018 AGM was quorate before we could kick off proceedings, I thanked her for coming along.

“Oh I’m only here so you’ll come to mine,” she said breezily.

Which got me thinking about what AGMs were for, why we need them and whether there wasn’t a better way than corralling 25 reluctant people into a room to talk about what we did as an organisation over a year ago.

Procedure, engagement and accountability

It seems to me that an AGM has three purposes – procedure, engagement and accountability.

The procedure bit is basically backing what’s already been done by the board or the members: receive and accept the annual report and financial statements; approve the appointment of the auditors; approve the appointment of new trustees (who have already been elected by the members); and approve the appointment of the treasurer, who has already been approved by the trustees.

Low levels of attendance mean the AGM is also not a good engagement opportunity:  if you discounted our trustees and the members who were there to receive their ACEVO Fellowship awards in 2018, we only had 16 members attending out of a membership of nearly 1,200. In comparison, more than 250 members came to our conference and over 900 attended our Forums, special interest groups and other events in the past year.

And while as a membership organisation it is particularly important that our members are able to hold trustees to account, our current arrangement is only really viable for London-based members – and not many of them at that.

So I suggested to ACEVO’s trustees that we should do away with the AGM and find a better way of engaging members with our governance and ensuring we remain accountable to them. They agreed to a series of alternative actions which we hope will fulfil the functions the AGM is failing to deliver.

Proposed alternatives: engaging members with our governance

  • ACEVO’s annual report and accounts will continue to be circulated to all members every year. We will post them on the website, publicise them through the member enews, our social media channels and trade press, and a hard copy of the summary infographic will be mailed separately to members.
  • We will hold an annual digital event where the chair, treasurer and CEO are available over a set period to answer questions about ACEVO’s annual report, governance, plans etc. This will be accessible to members from across the country without the need to travel.
  • Our trustees have each committed to attend a CEO Forum in their area at least once a year, with their attendance publicised in advance.
  • We will add trustee contact details and where they’re based on their details in the About Us section of our website, so members can contact them if they wish to raise any issue or concern.
  • Our amended articles will retain a provision for members to be able to call a general meeting at any point if required.

Changing our articles

All this requires a change to ACEVO’s Articles of Association, which will be put before an Extraordinary General Meeting at 2pm on 25 June. While we’re at it, we’ve taken the opportunity to tidy up the Articles a bit to allow for electronic communications, get rid of references to faxes and suchlike and to clarify our board composition. You can read the details of the proposed changes and the special resolution to be put before the EGM here.

We will still need 25 people to attend our EGM to discuss this proposal and approve (I hope) the changes to the Articles, so if you’re able to join us on 25 June, please do. At the very least it will mean I’ll come to yours.

Photo by David Travis on Unsplash

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