Most of your organization’s work happens on the committee level, be it day-to-day issues or fundamental/big-picture planning. That is why it is important to have a clear committee structure for your organization. We have talked before about the need for job descriptions and committee charters. These documents make sure everyone has a clear understanding of their roles, duties, actions and estimated time needed for their commitment to the organization.
For many of us, committees can be both a blessing and a curse. While they can tackle a ton of work, they can also demand a lot of time. Organizations can find it difficult to fill committee membership positions or have all the members help with the workload. All of these are clear and legitimate issues.
Committees are the perfect location for committed individuals to live – specifically individuals who are not currently on the board of directors. Past board members can continue their involvement with your organization while stepping down their time commitment. Community volunteers who sit on committees are an ideal pool of recruits for future board of director positions.
The most common practice is to have standing committees and ad-hoc committees. Standing committees are ever-present and always operating. The most common standing committees include:
- Governance (board development/nominating committee)
Ad-hoc committees arise when a particular issue needs to be addressed and then fold up when the issue or task is complete. Examples of ad-hoc committees are:
- Tactical/Strategic Planning
- Special events
A Growing Trend
There is now a growing movement to actually reduce the number of board committees. Known as the Three-Committee Structure, this trend recognizes how the work of multiple committees can overlap and the demand for board member/committee member time can be eaten up when individuals sit on more than one committee.
Internal Affairs covers operations, finance, human resources and similar internal business.
External Affairs focuses on fundraising, marketing, outreach and programming.
Governance is tasked with the health and functioning of the board including ongoing board development, nominating/recruitment of new board members, board evaluations and policy development.
It should be noted that this is actually a four committee structure as the Executive Committee is still present and operating.
Regardless of what kind of committee structure you have, there are some standard practices all committees should follow.
- Clearly define the purpose
- Clearly outline member responsibilities and expectations
- Come up with a realistic and attainable yearly plan upon which everyone can refer back to
- Meet on a regular basis
- Provide a small written report for your monthly board agenda or board packet