For many nonprofit organizations, maintaining a full and active board of directors is challenging. If your board holds frequent meetings, has high attendance expectations and requires members to do considerable “homework,” you may have trouble recruiting and retaining people. Qualified individuals generally are busy with work, family and other activities and may not have spare time to dedicate to all the duties expected of board members. But if you segment responsibilities into committees, you can help ease the burden on board members — and retain them longer. Committee work has other benefits as well.

Reduced workload and increased investment

A common and effective way to segregate board responsibilities is by function, such as finance, fundraising and governance. In addition to potentially reducing board member workload, committee work enables members with specific talents or expertise (for example, financial, legal, marketing and IT) to dig in and directly apply those skills. If you want to upgrade your nonprofit’s IT network, why not turn the task over to a technology committee of members who can use their experience and knowledge to research and select new hardware and software?

Dividing board work into committees can help you recruit new members as well. For example, an otherwise reluctant physician may be encouraged to join a nonprofit hospital board if one of the committees is working to introduce protocols the doctor advocates. Committees can also help orient new members — allowing them to work closely with committee mentors and become invested in your organization’s activities.

Work of a dedicated group

For an example of how you can make the most of committee work, let’s look at a board member nominating committee. Nominating committees usually assess board membership needs, collect candidate names, interview prospective members and make recommendations.

To help in recruiting, the committee might prepare a summary for prospective candidates that briefs them on such topics as your organization’s mission and key programs, its history and evolution, and board member duties and possible committee assignments. After interested candidates have had the opportunity to review the summary, committee members can offer to answer questions or clarify points. If candidates wish to proceed, the members can arrange interviews with the full committee or with individual committee members. The committee then can recommend the best candidates to the full board for a vote.

This process enables board members who are particularly interested in recruiting to fully immerse themselves. At the same time, those board members whose interests lie elsewhere can avoid the long hours involved in searching for new members.

Permanent and ad-hoc

Although some committees may become permanent fixtures to your board (such as executive, finance and nominating), you can also set up temporary, ad-hoc committees. For instance, if you’re planning to build a new facility, you might establish a committee to oversee the project from site selection to opening day. Contact us for more information — or, possibly, if you’re looking for a board member with accounting expertise.


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