Three Strategic Steps to Reviving CommitteesJul 31, 2023
Your committees reflect your unique responsibilities, your strategic and work plans and your collective and individual accountability. Right? If not, read on.
Your committees are what drive the work of the Board. They represent governance-as-leadership in action. Sadly, many Board committees exist because, well, they exist. Too often they meet, rehashing old ground and reflecting the work of management. Their reports may or may not be written and may or may not include recommendations for improvement.
How can your committees be strategic and productive? And of course, in the process have members feel that they are making a valuable contribution?
First, ensure that your committees reflect your four unique responsibilities as a Board. You need a structure that enables a focus on setting strategic direction for the organization, developing a strong partnership with the Chief Executive Officer or Executive Director, ensuring sustained and sustaining resources to achieve your mission, and monitoring and evaluating your programs and services as well as your financial health. Of course, a committee may not do the actual work, but can ensure that it is done.
We recommend a Governance Committee, a Planning and Policy Committee, and a Program Monitoring Committee, which may include financial oversight. An Executive Committee could comprise the Chair plus the chairs of the committees, one of whom may be the Vice-chair.
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Second, have a Board annual work plan that reflects your strategic plan, your business plan and your outstanding objectives. This plan should be delegated to committees to do the work and report to the Board.
Third, the committee work (and indeed all Board work) should be assigned responsibility and reporting deadlines. This will drive your Board agenda inasmuch as a priority or objective to be completed by April will appear on the April agenda. All reports to the Board must (not should) be brief and in writing. This provides a record of actions and decisions and guarantees that Board members have the opportunity to review reports and recommendations prior to a meeting. No exceptions!
Fourth, each committee should submit an annual report – its terms of reference, work plan, what was accomplished, what is still outstanding (with deadlines), any obstacles or problems, and who comprised the committee. The Executive Committee should review the terms of reference and performance of each committee annually and decide whether to renew, revise (terms, objectives, membership) or disband. This provides a record and a starting point for a new chair and committee.
Committees are the structure and backbone for your success. Make their roles and responsibilities clear and hold them accountable!
What are your main “pain points” dealing with board committees?
What advice would be most helpful to you?
And we always assume that you are asking for a friend!
Get in touch. We’ll address your questions and concerns in an upcoming blog post.
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