By: Dee Kring, CAE, CMP
Whether you’ve chaired them, served on them or staffed them, you recognize that successful committees don’t just happen without some effort and thoughtful planning. Committees play a huge role in the overall success of an organization and their ability to meet their goals and objectives.
What can we do ensure successful committees? The following isn’t an exhaustive list, but a few tips I’ve found helpful:
- Establish and communicate committee objectives. Your organization’s Policies & Procedures should include committee charters which clearly state the purpose of the committee, the committee structure, how often it meets and expectations of support from staff. It is helpful to provide this information to a prospective committee member prior to their commitment to service so they know what the expectations are and can make an informed decision as well as evaluate their desire and availability to actively serve.
- Get the right people in the right seats on the bus. The committee chairperson should be someone with strong leadership skills and all serving on the committee should have a passion for the purpose and the time needed to fulfil the commitment. The best volunteer is the one who volunteers, not the one you have to “recruit”. Yes, sometimes people need a little push or a vote of confidence that they have something valuable to bring to the table, but if you have to do a lot of convincing, they will most likely will not be engaged.
- Provide staff support – Some organizations have self-sustaining committees while others provide full staff support. Determine what is needed to allow the committee to focus on the big picture, and provide support accordingly. Help identify goals, budgets, establish timelines, schedule meetings, etc. Also, although a staff member’s vote doesn’t count, their opinion does. Encourage staff members to actively participate in committee discussions if they have something valuable to contribute.
- Respect their time – Meetings should start and end on time, follow a set agenda and give notice well in advance so that everyone has it on their calendars. I like establishing a consistent day/time every month and sending meeting invitations through Microsoft Outlook, with the agenda document attached. The recipient accepts the invitation, and now the meeting (with agenda) is on their calendar and will automatically send reminders and updates. This calendar event can also serve as your RSVP list as you’ll easily be able to see who accepted or declined.
- Communicate – Ensure ongoing communication with the committee and, in turn, the committee to the board. Most committee meetings don’t require minutes, but good notes are necessary in order to prepare a concise report back to the board on the committee’s activities. If you don’t already have one, create a committee board report template so that committees have a means for communicating with the board. The board will appreciate a committee chair that brings complete information or a fully vetted recommendation to the board, rather than spending valuable time conducing committee work at the board level.
Your organization’s committees can be the catalyst for moving the mission forward, and successful committees take effort and hard work from both volunteers and staff. Don’t overlook showing appreciation and giving recognition to those who have served. Committee members should see the end results of their efforts and be made aware of the positive impact their actions have made. As we all can relate to, we are more compelled to give when we know our time and efforts are truly appreciated and we are contributing to the greater good.