Table of Contents
- Why Establish a Committee
- Determining Need
- Types of Committees
- Creating a Good Committee
- Signs of a Well Functioning Committee
- First Meeting of the Committee
Effective committees can be one of the most important working forces
at the heart of an organization as well an extremely rewarding experience
for those involved. This Factsheet outlines the why and how of committees,
providing guidelines to help committees function well and achieve
Although the purpose and objectives of a committee may be clear
and concise, other factors can influence whether or not the committee
will succeed in accomplishing its task.
Why Establish a Committee
There are several basic reasons to establish a committee that are
common to all regardless of the tasks they are to complete. These
- sharing responsibilities
- involving more members
- using the specialized skills of members
- providing a vehicle where:
- inexperienced members can gain confidence
- matters can be examined in more detail
- allowing the parent body to complete its business more efficiently
by delegating work to committees.
Unless the purpose of a committee can be stated in writing, the
committee is probably unnecessary. If a committee is proposed, consider
the following points in developing its terms of reference.
Terms of Reference
- Name gives an identity and the general objectives
- Type standing or ad hoc
- Nature of the committee discussion, working, task force,
- Purpose a short description of why it was formed, including
specific tasks and objectives
- Responsibilities and limitations specific directives
that define goals or tasks, and the relationship to any other
- Chairperson someone skilled in chairing meetings, who
will be responsible for determining method of appointing members
as well as results
- Responsible to designates the person or a chair who will
receive the reports
- Authority defines decision making or approval authority
- Timeframe, reporting, deadlines duration, reporting dates,
type of report i.e. at board meeting or written, final completion
- Composition number and title or type of individuals who
will serve on committee, process for selecting members and filling
vacancies, role of other directors, term of office
- Support staff, volunteers, actual type of support provided
- Resources needed budget, expenses, office space, files,
- Communication with Board how and when, usually through
The parent organization, usually through the executive, is responsible
for defining the committees purpose, limitations and responsibilities.
Include these written terms of reference in the policies or bylaws
or recorded via the motion that created the committee. Also record
the names of members of standing committees. All written reference
to committees is then made available to members and readily accessible
to the organization.
Types of Committees
There are two kinds:
- Standing created by the standing orders, rules, by-laws
or regulations of an organization. They exist and function more
or less on a permanent basis, e.g., finance, education, nomination,
- Ad Hoc appointed for a particular purpose on a short-term
Both types of committees may form subcommittees if the work loads
are heavy or complex.
Creating a Good Committee
Two key procedures to achieve the best committee are:
- Selection Selecting members is a critical first step
to creating an effective committee. Carefully consider skills
and interest. Size is also important five to nine members
is best in most cases.
- Orientation Taking time to adequately orient members
helps start the committee on the right track. Provide information
and clearly define:
- committee purpose and expectations
- structure, reporting procedure, roles and responsibilities
- individual members expectations.
The Committee Chair is key in committee work. Select this individual
carefully. Choose someone who is interested in and can work easily
with others. The Chair's role is not necessarily one of bringing
technical expertise to the group, Someone who is a good membership
salesperson will not necessarily be good at chairing the membership
committee, The Chair must be organized and know how to organize
- both programs and people. He or she must know how to involve others
- the experts and the workers - and to motivate them to do the work
of the committee. Other responsibilities of the Chair include:
- preparing and presenting committee reports
- ensuring there is a successor being groomed to assume the Chairs
- setting agendas, calling meetings, soliciting input from all
Given the importance of the chair to the success of a committee,
it is important the parent organization be honest to prospective
candidates about the amount of work involved. Enticing someone with
"Take the job. There's nothing to it" is unwise, unproductive
Committees are directly responsible to the organization that created
them. Reports, usually presented by the chair, should:
- be included as agenda items for general meetings
- list specific recommendations at the end of the report.
- be concise otherwise the time saved by referring the
business to a committee may be negligible.
- clearly indicate that full discussion was held and all options
considered, otherwise the organization may suspect that the committee
missed something. (See attached report outline.)
Motions dealing with the report are usually made by the committee
chair and include:
- to receive a report this is a common motion
when no specific recommendations are made or no action is required/desired
- to adopt a report if the report is adopted recommendations
become decisions of the organization and action is to be taken,
The responsibility, both legal and otherwise, becomes that of
the parent organization.
The organization must give the committee feedback, for example:
- receiving or adopting a report
- referring to another committee or individual for further action
- returning the report for clarification or further action
- postponing action
- declining the recommendations
A "thank you" or other appropriate form of recognition
for a job well done, even though there may be criticism included
in the report, is essential to motivate future committee effectiveness.
Signs of a Well Functioning Committee
- Purpose of the committee is clear to all.
- Careful time control length of meetings, as well as development
of overall committee time path.
- Sensitivity within and to each others needs, good communication
- An informal, relaxed atmosphere.
- Good preparation on the part of the Chair and members.
- Interested and committed members.
- Minutes are complete and concise.
- Periodic self assessment of committees performance.
- Contributions are recognized so members know their work is appreciated.
- The work of the committee is accepted and makes a valuable contribution
to the organization.
- A committees is appointed when a job is too large for one person.
- Committees help define an issue, resolve a complex problem and
involve group members.
- Successful committees plan ahead, usually as a result of the
key role that the chair plays.
Committees, their chairs and members are vital to the health of
an effective organization.
First Meeting of the Committee
- Start on time.
- Set deadline to adjourn.
- Call to order.
- Announce purpose of meeting.
- Appoint a secretary to maintain records of the committees
actions or recommendations.
- What is our job?
- Discuss committee assignment and encourage group participation
as to what may be probable solutions or what additional information
- Set priorities goals.
- What additional information is needed?
- List actions necessary to solve the committee assignment.
- Are there other programs or projects we should consider?
- Has someone else or another organization had a similar experience?
- Is there a success story in another organization on a similar
- Is a staff resource person needed to advise the committee?
- Identify priority issues, actions, or projects by exact
- Implement priority activities.
- Each project or activity is assigned / delegated to an individual
or small subcommittee to implement. Agree upon a time schedule
for completion of each.
- Set report dates to report progress on each assignment.
- Agree upon date and time of next meeting.
Name of Committee: _____________________________________________
Committee Assignment: ___________________________________________
Key Discussion Points: ____________________________________________
Recommendations and/or Points for Further Discussion:
Names of Committee Members Attending Meetings:
Chair (signed): ___________________________________________________