Nonprofit boards operate largely under the same rules. The rules for nonprofit board committees were intentionally designed to be broad to accommodate the wide variety of sizes and purposes of nonprofit organizations.
A nonprofit’s bylaws describe the types of standing committees the board should form. It’s also perfectly acceptable for some boards to not use committees at all. Nonprofit boards may also establish special committees to address certain business items or operational matters as needed.
Establishing the right committees can have far-reaching benefits for nonprofit boards. The key to reaping the benefits of nonprofit committees is to be clear on their purpose, document that purpose in a committee charter, and monitor committees to ensure that they’re being productive.
Types of Nonprofit Committees and the Benefits they Provide
Active nonprofit boards typically have jam-packed board meeting agendas. There simply isn’t time during the course of a regular board meeting to research and vet every issue that boards face and still have time for all the regular business.
Nonprofit boards can utilize their committees by handing off time-consuming matters to a committee and assigning them to bring back an in-depth report to inform the full board. Committees meet separately from the board to research issues more intensely, analyze their findings, and support those findings in a final report to the rest of the board.
The standing committees that are described in your bylaws are intended to serve a continuing and permanent function for your organization. Your bylaws may allow you to create additional standing committees as your organization evolves and changes.
Nominating committee – Best practices for board recruitment suggest that recruiting should be a continual process. Nonprofit organizations benefit from regular board refreshment. Most nonprofit boards have staggered terms, so there may be one or two board vacancies every year. By having a pipeline of potential board candidates, boards can ensure that they have a quality board regardless of the amount of turnover.
Audit committee – Regardless of the size or budget of a nonprofit, it’s essential for boards to establish an audit committee. The role of the audit committee is to review the organization’s financial records for accuracy. Audit committees play an important role in ensuring their nonprofits are in compliance with state and federal laws. They’re responsible for providing an audit report to the board annually for approval.
Membership committee – Depending on the nonprofit, membership fees can be a major part of a nonprofit’s fundraising efforts. A membership committee takes on the task of managing membership lists, working on recruiting and retaining members, and collecting membership fees.
There are times when a board needs people to carry out a function that isn’t covered by the charters of their standing committees. Most nonprofit boards have the ability to form special committees, or ad hoc committees, as needed to carry out a specific task. Nonprofit boards use motions and votes to form special committees. Once the committee’s work is complete, the committee disbands. Boards can also abolish special committees if they fail to fulfill their intended purpose.
Nonprofit Board Committees Produce Valuable Advantages
Nonprofit board committees help to share the board’s load because they have the time to investigate and explore specific issues in depth. Board committees provide value because they increase efficiency. By delegating time-consuming matters to committees, boards gain valuable time for discussion and debate during board meetings.
Small and newer nonprofit organizations can often get by with a small board and one or more committees. Large, established nonprofit organizations typically have more standing and special committees.
The benefits of well-designed nonprofit board committees include:
Committees engage all board members.
Typically, nonprofit boards require all board members to serve on at least one committee in addition to their board duties. Serving on a committee requires active participation. Board members that feel challenged are more apt to engage in board activities and actively participate in board discussions. Committee service also helps to prevent quieter board members from being overruled by more vocal board members.
Committees tap the individual skills of board members.
Board members are generally recruited for the specific skills that they can bring to the board. By assigning board members that have a certain area of expertise to a committee, the board can effectively tap into the most important resources on specific issues.
Committee reports keep the whole board updated in all areas.
Committees make it possible to keep the entire board updated on all issues whether they’re directly involved in them or not. Also, if a key board member such as the board chair or a member of the executive committee leaves the board for any reason or takes a leave of absence, the committees provide information and continuity to keep board leaders informed.
Informed boards are effective boards.
Committee work helps to inform all board members so that they maintain a good understanding of various management functions. This is important so that the board maintains a high standard of good governance.
Committees make it possible for boards to meet less often.
Much of the grunt work happens in committees, so it makes sense for them to meet often enough to accomplish the goals that correspond to their purpose. Much of what takes place at nonprofit board meetings pertains to formalities. Many nonprofit boards opt to hold committee meetings regularly and schedule full board meetings less often such as holding committee meetings monthly and holding board meetings bi-monthly or quarterly.
Committees alleviate board member burnout.
Nonprofit board members are typically volunteers. When volunteers get too many demands on their time, they’re prone to burnout. Overworked board members can lead to high board turnover which isn’t good for the board or the nonprofit.
In conclusion, nonprofit board committees help nonprofit organizations to be focused and productive. This is especially important for nonprofits that are undergoing periods of strong growth or change. A BoardEffect board portal offers a secure space where board committees can collaborate and report to the board.
It’s also beneficial to periodically re-evaluate your committee charters to ensure that they’re in keeping with your mission, vision, and scope. There are no limits as to how nonprofit organizations can form or utilize their committees. The important factors are ensuring that committee work is productive and that it helps to fulfill the organization’s mission and stated purpose.