Unlike for-profit companies, most nonprofits are lean on staff members. The goal of nonprofits is to offer as much as they can to their communities in the way of services. Having less staff means that someone else has to do much of the work that nonprofits need to keep their operations running. Those tasks fall on the board of directors unless the board delegates them to board committees.
Nonprofit boards tend to be larger than for-profit corporate boards and they tend to have more standing and ad hoc committees.
Nonprofit boards typically set up a few standing committees and charge them with fulfilling certain duties all year long. Boards generally assign a committee chair and add to the committee with some combination of volunteers, employees, board members and outside experts.
Having lots of committees means that much of the work gets divided up. This is a good thing when everyone works together, but for some nonprofits, it can create situations in which everyone becomes disconnected.
The solution to this problem is to implement a board portal system, which creates a common, secure electronic platform that provides an online gathering place in which nonprofit boards and committees can collaborate in various ways. BoardEffect’s board portal offers a feature for granular permissions so that only those who need to access parts of the portal can do so. User permissions prevent sensitive information from leaking and the high level of security within the platform and other software solutions keeps hackers at bay.
Common Standing Committees for Nonprofits
The answer to the question of how many standing committees a nonprofit needs is: however many they need to get the job done. The number and type of committees vary greatly between nonprofits. To avoid the problem of having too many committees, nonprofits should make a practice of evaluating their committees periodically to make sure they’re fulfilling the needs of the nonprofit. Following are some descriptions of the more common types of committees that nonprofits create and the duties they perform. The bylaws outline the expectations and duties of the committees.
For most nonprofit organizations, fundraising is their primary activity. They need a fundraising committee to manage and coordinate fundraising efforts.
Fundraising committees coordinate events like raffles, galas, silent auctions, 5k or 10K runs, and other events with the main goal of raising money for the organization. Fundraising committees also seek out opportunities for gaining corporate sponsors, philanthropists, large donors, grants and endowments, as well as other ways of generating funds for the organization.
In addition to formal fundraising efforts, another way that boards work to generate funds is by charging a membership fee and expanding their membership. The membership committee keeps track of membership fees and looks for ways to attract new members.
Membership committee members also create strategies to keep their current members active and involved in order to preserve their retention numbers. Current members perform such duties as organizing membership drives or campaigns, setting up direct mail campaigns and conducting membership surveys. As the board can offer benefits to members, the membership committee keeps members notified of how their membership benefits them.
The board may also set some strategic goals for the membership committee, such as gaining a certain number of new members per year.
Marketing committees often go hand-in-hand with fundraising committees because it’s difficult to raise funds if no one knows the nonprofit exists. Marketing committees create awareness of the good work that nonprofits do by creating marketing campaigns, promoting events, creating advertising and posting on social media platforms. Some nonprofits opt to combine the marketing committee and the public relations committee into one committee, as they often work closely together.
Public Relations Committee
The public relations committee manages all printed publications, such as brochures, flyers, leaflets and whitepapers. This committee often also manages the website directly or oversees someone who does. The public relations committee chair often shares the responsibility of being the organization’s spokesperson with the board president.
Larger nonprofits sometimes require the need for an executive committee. Typically, executive committees act as steering committees for the larger board. They vet the issues and help narrow the board’s agenda down to the most important ones. In many cases, a nonprofit’s bylaws will give the executive committee some limited authority to act on behalf of the board directors. Executive committees usually consist of the board chair, vice president, secretary, treasurer, immediate past president and possibly a few others.
Members of finance committees keep track of the organization’s assets and liabilities. The committee prepares the annual budget and makes recommendations to the board. The financial report appears on all board meeting agendas and the finance committee should be prepared to answer questions about it. The finance committee also has many oversight duties, including overseeing the work of employees and contractors, overseeing endowments and other significant financial assets, and overseeing investments and tax strategies. All members of the finance committee should have some degree of financial expertise, and at least one person should have major expertise in the area of finance.
It’s not always common for nonprofits to form meetings committees as standing committees. Larger nonprofits tend to host more meetings and other business events, and they need people to coordinate and facilitate them. Meetings committees take responsibility for such things as organizing annual meetings, conferences, seminars, workshops, trade shows and other educational-type events.
Some meetings committees do the work themselves, while others hire professionals to manage the many details of choosing a venue, planning for food and entertainment, renting equipment, budgeting and setting up the schedule or format of events. This committee may also work closely with the marketing and public relations committees to help get the word out about events.
Board Portals Are an Important Tool for Committee Work
Operating a nonprofit in today’s world can be a complex undertaking. BoardEffect designed a board portal with the specific needs of nonprofit organizations in mind. BoardEffect is a software solution that streamlines the processes for creating agendas and board meeting packets. The portal offers an online platform in which boards and committees can join separately or together at any time of the day and using any electronic device.
BoardEffect offers secure, unlimited document storage using cloud-based technology. BoardEffect Messenger by Diligent is a secure messaging platform that eliminates concerns about nonprofit board and committee members using personal or business email accounts for nonprofit business that may open up opportunities for hackers to acquire personal data, creating serious risks and liabilities for the nonprofit.
In summary, nonprofits of today juggle many balls in the air at a time, and they do it mostly on volunteer power. Board portals can be a nonprofit’s best friend when it comes to increasing efficiency and reducing risks.