How to put together a not-for-profit committee and some potential structures to embrace for maximum efficiency.
How to put together a not-for-profit committee, because if it hasn’t become apparent yet, nonprofit organizations hold a significant amount of differences when compared to for-profit organizations. One important difference in the organizational structure of your not-for-profit is the use of committees by a board of directors. Nonprofits need a board of directors to make decisions on what is best for the organization as a whole. What many people don’t realize is that most executives sitting on nonprofit boards are volunteering their time to do so. Many nonprofit organizations don’t have large budgets for staff, and there is a cultural admiration towards those at the end of successful careers to take on responsibilities that will give back to the community that they benefitted from. Before we take a closer look at the role of committees in a nonprofit organization, we need to review how these committees and a board of directors work hand in hand.
How to put together a not-for-profit committee – Board of Directors
A board of directors at a nonprofit is responsible for the governance of the organization. A board usually consists of at least three positions (known as board officers). These positions are most commonly:
- President or Chair
While lower-ranked employees and managers are responsible for the day-to-day operations of the nonprofit, the board is responsible for high-level strategy and oversight to keep the organization running for as long as possible.
This High-level strategy usually consists of a few things. The first is to make sure that the nonprofit is on track to fulfill all its legal obligations to maintain its current 501C status. Once that obligation has been confirmed, the board can move on to other topics such as:
- Organizational planning
- Maintaining healthy finances
- Recruiting and replacing board members as needs change
- Navigating public opinion for the organization
This is not a comprehensive list of all the work a board of directors does over the tenure of a not-for-profit, but it gives us an easy-to-understand look into all the work that must be done to keep an organization thriving. It’s quite a lot when you remember that many of these board members are volunteering their time! In order to manage all this responsibility, many boards utilize committees to ensure projects are completed within the desired time frame.
But how does utilizing a committee structure lead to more efficient workplace practices?
How to put together a not-for-profit committee – The Not-For-Profit Committee
With a board in place at your nonprofit organization, you can move on with the implementation of committees as a structure to manage the responsibilities of the board. Committees are lifelines for a board to effectively delegate tasks to directors, non-directors, or a mixture of both. If a board of directors is looking at a high-level overview of an organization, and employees and managers are running the day-to-day operations, then committees live somewhere in the middle, allowing for projects functioning at a larger scale or on longer timelines to be managed without overburdening any one member of an organization. These committees can exist as either ad hoc or standing committees, the former acting as temporary installations for projects with end dates and the latter being for continuous elements of your organization.
Committees provide a laundry list of benefits to projects labeled as important enough to receive one. The biggest benefit committees provide is simply the recognition of something needing more time delegated to its tasks, as committees require external meetings not in relation to board meetings. So something discussed by the board that also receives a committee is instantly placed as high priority. These committees also help mitigate burnout, by allowing non-board members to participate in the project.
There is also the opportunity for committees to evaluate individuals for possible board inclusion as well. For example, a board in search of a vice president might place a candidate on a committee that has similar requirements for the position. This not only tests possible candidates but provides experiential training at the same time, potentially utilizing an individual’s skill sets in a way that maximizes their potential.
Lastly, committees assist with managing burnout. Holding a position on a board is full of exhausting and time-consuming tasks. By utilizing committees to bring in other support staff or individuals with a more specialized knowledge base to the committee topic, burnout is mitigated through the diffusion of responsibilities between members. Not only are the teamwork skills of this group being developed, but committee implementation also prevents any single individual from being overburdened with work.
Types of committees:
As mentioned previously, the permanence of committees is decided by classifying them as either ad hoc or standing committees. For example, if your nonprofit is in desperate need of hiring individuals with a certain skillset, then an ad hoc hiring committee might be a great option to assist in the recruiting process. Once those positions are filled, the committee can be dissolved, as the problem that the committee was addressing has been resolved.
Standing committees address ongoing issues or requirements for the nonprofit to continue its operations. A governance committee is a great example of what a standing committee is, and we will discuss governance committees in more detail later. Examples of different committees a nonprofit could have include:
- Fundraising/Development Committee
- Investment Committee
- Marketing Committee
- Audit Committee
- Membership Committee
While having any and all of these committees available to your team may be beneficial, It’s best to start by implementing a three-committee structure.
A three-committee model consists of a governance committee, an internal affairs committee, and an external affairs committee. This structure is intentionally simple, to maintain clear lines of communication and to not over-segment necessary nonprofit tasks.
The governance committee is responsible for the functionality of the board. This involves tasks like training directors, board recruitment, efficiency audits, and anything else that is a direct reflection of how the board operates day to day.
The internal affairs committee is responsible for issues related to the internal structure of the nonprofit. These issues may encompass things such as finance, investments, human resources, and property management.
The external affairs committee is responsible for managing all external issues, things such as fundraising, marketing, and public relations.
By maintaining a simple committee structure, all necessary tasks are delegated efficiently, releasing the board from being overburdened.
Committees for change
When a nonprofit has committees that align with their objectives and work in tandem with its board and staff, the potential for successful programming increases dramatically. It can be difficult to navigate which structure best suits your organization, but by beginning an implementation early into the process and allowing for adjustments a natural working rhythm will begin to develop. For those reading this who still feel overwhelmed, let MBSATA put you at ease with our world-class accounting advisors. Our expertise in the nonprofit sector makes us a go to for when you’re feeling like you could use an extra hand.
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