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8 Tips for Making Nonprofit Board Committees More Effective

by: Mike Burns

Robert’s and Roberta’s Rules of Order, the universally adopted meeting management guides, both offer that committees of a board are structural vehicles for preparing a board for its fiduciary policy, planning and decision-making — effectively, doing the homework of the board. With this said, let us look at the real challenges of board committees:

  • Committees often put a scheduling and preparation strain on the committee chair and staff.

  • Committees often lack clear purpose and focus (even with bylaws or a board manual).

  • Committees frequently lack strong leadership (including finding someone willing to take the position).

  • Committees struggle with staff — in mostly small to medium nonprofits, having staff to be available for support; and in larger nonprofits, utilizing staff as managers rather than providing information.

  • Committees often have board members who have not read their reports or opt to rehash committee work, which results in committee members questioning their purpose.

So, what can a committee do to at least reduce the weight of these challenges and strengthen the benefits of the pluses? Here are some ideas: