TOOL 22 Review – Straw Vote Cards

By John Pearson

A Quick and Courteous Way to Give Every Board Member a Voice

At every board and committee meeting, provide green and red straw vote cards (green means “yes” and red means “no”). Any board member can ask for a straw vote at any time. Sometimes the loudest, longest-talking board member is the only one holding up a red card—and the instant feedback will help her see she’s not convincing anyone!


Use red and green straw vote cards to discern if you have consensus or division on big and small issues—and save valuable time!


  • After adequate discussion on an issue, the chair might ask, “Is there consensus that it’s time to vote? If you’re ready to vote, raise your green card. If not, hold up your red card.”

  • Ready to vote? “It’s been moved and seconded that we ask the Governance Committee to research the benefits of moving from 12 board meetings per year to just six.”

  • “Mr. Chairman, we’ve been discussing this topic for over an hour—but not every board member has weighed in yet. Could we do a quick show of cards to see if most agree—or disagree—with the motion on the table?”

We were introduced to this time-saving tool by our friend and colleague, Bob Andringa, who notes: “The card saves time by testing the group’s leanings early on in what could otherwise be unnecessarily long discussions.”

He adds, “The straw vote cards allow everyone, even the most extreme introverts, to have a ‘voice’ by going visual. And when anyone can test an idea by a show of cards, they help keep board members more alert to the dialogue. And they can add some fun to your meetings!”

As a bonus, this tool also includes four additional facilitation techniques to engage board members at every meeting—including how to leverage the first 30 minutes of every board meeting to set the tone for deep engagement.

Order the tools book from Amazon by clicking on this title: ECFA Tools and Templates for Effective Board Governance: Time-Saving Solutions for Your Board, by Dan Busby and John Pearson. The book gives you full access to all 22 tools and templates—formatted as Word documents so you can customize the tools for your board’s unique uses.

BOARD DISCUSSION: Think about our last board meeting—and your thoughts when driving home from the meeting. Discuss: “Was I needed at that meeting? Did others engage both my heart and my head—or were there low or no expectations that I would add value?” And reflect on this: “Did we sense any holy moments—that clearly demonstrated our ministry is governed by eternal values and obedience to God’s direction?”

MORE RESOURCES: In Lesson 18 for the Lessons From the Nonprofit Boardroom Blog, Holly Duncan writes, “The best leaders are the best listeners. There is a direct correlation between one’s willingness to listen to others and one’s willingness to listen to God.” Read her guest blog, “Do Not Interrupt! Don’t assume board members know how to listen.”


This article was originally posted on the “Governance of Christ-Centered Organizations” blog, hosted by ECFA.
John Pearson, a board governance consultant and author, was ECFA’s governance blogger from 2011 to 2020.
© 2021, ECFA and John Pearson. All rights reserved.


This text is provided with the understanding that ECFA is not rendering legal, accounting, or other professional advice or service. Professional advice on specific issues should be sought from an accountant, lawyer, or other professional.