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8 ways to structure committees

by The NonProfit Times - May 6, 2013

It goes without saying that board members have many responsibilities. To ensure that work gets done efficiently, many use committees to manage their work. These recommend actions to the board, but do not act on behalf of the board unless otherwise noticed.

If your nonprofit’s board is thinking about creating committees, it’s important to ensure they are structured properly, wrote Vernetta Walker and Emily Heard in “Nonprofit Management 101.” They recommended the following eight tips to make sure that form follows function in the committees:

  • Be strategic about the board’s committee structure. Make sure that committees focus on the board’s ongoing work.
  • Unless your board falls into the “working board” category and the organization has no or limited staff, it should not establish committees that overlap with staff functions.
  • All board members should serve on at least one committee; this should be specified in the board member agreement.
  • Invite non-board members to join a committee as a way to add needed expertise in areas. This can also be an effective way to recruit potential board members.
  • Ensure that committees consist of at least three members to provide enough capacity and diversity of thought to complete the tasks assigned.
  • To ensure that board members aren’t stretched too thin, limit the number of committees that any board member can serve on to two or three.
  • Clearly define the role of a committee in a written description, so all members are clear about their responsibilities.
  • Assign a chair to each committee. Use these positions to groom potential board chairs.


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