In many nonprofits, committees play, or could play, an essential role. This blog post explores the importance of committees and how they can be effective in achieving organizational goals, bringing diverse perspectives, skills and capacity to the table, and supporting the often over-stretched commitments of the staff and board.
Simply put, committees are groups of people appointed to perform specific tasks, make decisions or gather information on behalf of the organization. They are often made up of volunteers, board members, staff members, or other stakeholders with relevant expertise or interest in the area they are tasked with. Committees can be permanent or temporary, and their roles and responsibilities can vary depending on the organization’s needs.
By involving stakeholders with different backgrounds and expertise, committees can provide a more comprehensive and well-rounded approach to decision-making. This can lead to better-informed decisions, increased creativity, and more innovative solutions to complex problems.
Another advantage of committees is that they can help distribute the workload beyond staff and board members. Nonprofits often operate on limited resources, and committees can provide a more efficient way to manage tasks and responsibilities. By delegating tasks to committees, the organization’s leadership can focus on higher-level strategic goals, while the committee members can take on special projects.
Committees can also provide opportunities for leadership development and skill-building. Serving on a committee can help volunteers or staff members develop new skills, gain experience in decision-making, and build relationships with other members of the organization. This can help foster a sense of ownership and commitment to the organization’s mission, which can lead to increased engagement and retention of volunteers, staff members and possible future board members.
What should be considered when planning your committees?
- Establish committees when:
- It’s apparent that issues are too complex and/or numerous to be handled by the entire board.
- Use standing committees for ongoing, major activities.
- Consider ad hoc committees for short-term activities.
- At each board meeting have each committee chair report the committee’s work since the past board meeting.
- Have non-board or staff volunteer as members of the committee:
- This allows you to bring in needed help and expertise.
- It gives you and them a chance to get familiar with each other which may lead to future opportunities.
- It’s a great way to ‘try-out’ potential board members.
- Assure your bylaws do not prohibit non-board or staff participation on committees.
- Have clear terms of reference (guidelines) for committees including:
- Reporting structure
- Committees can offer an opportunity for board members to ‘roll up their sleeves’ and get into hands-on activities.
- When a board member sits on a committee, they are there as volunteers first, board members second.
- There may be volunteers who possess skills and expertise that may be helpful but who do not want the formality or longer term commitment of board participation.
To be effective, committees need to have a clear purpose and well-defined roles and responsibilities. The organization’s leadership should carefully consider the committee’s objectives, membership, and decision-making authority to ensure they align with the organization’s overall goals and values. It is also essential to establish clear communication channels between the committee and the organization’s leadership to ensure the committee’s work is aligned with the organization’s priorities.
How about your organization? Have you used committees effectively to reach your mission and goals? If you’re interested in sharing your experience feel free to drop me an email at email@example.com.
And, finally here are two resources you might find helpful. Both of these links have been added under Board Governance on my Resources page:
Board Committees: A Q&A Guide to Grow Impact
Committees – What type and why?