The intense scrutiny that nonprofit leaders have been facing in recent years should call your attention to the importance of the nonprofit executive committee. If you haven’t done so already, it’s primetime to revisit your bylaws and reevaluate the role of your nonprofit executive committee. A good review will help your nonprofit board have a greater understanding of what a nonprofit executive committee is, why it’s important to have one, and whether your organization’s executive committee has the right tools to fulfill its responsibilities.
What Is a Nonprofit Executive Committee?
To establish a well-functioning executive committee, nonprofit boards have to select the right members.
A nonprofit executive committee is a standing committee that typically meets on a regular basis. If you aren’t sure who should serve on your executive committee, your bylaws should give you an accurate description of how to form your committee. Best practices for non-profit governance suggest that you comprise an executive committee that consists of your officers, board chair, and executive director. You may select other individuals as well if you are bylaws allow it, and if it makes sense for your organization. Nonprofit organizations have some flexibility in forming executive committees. Some organizations prefer to give boards and the board chair the responsibility for appointing the chairs of each standing committee.
Each member should be aware of their duties and responsibilities individually, and as a group, and be committed to fulfilling them.
Your executive committee should strive to form close ties with the executive director and other important staff, so they’re aware of important issues and emerging concerns. Executive committees often have to meet with little notice to address major issues that can’t wait until a full board meeting.
Most often, the board appoints the members of the executive committee in accordance with the bylaws. A nonprofit executive committee can consist of any size. In the nonprofit world, it’s common to set the executive committee’s membership between 3-7 members. Joan Garry, a leading governance expert, says what’s most important is that executive committee members are willing to ask tough questions, vet all issues thoroughly, and steer the full board toward responsible leadership.
Why Are Executive Committees Important?
The full weight of a board member’s responsibilities quickly becomes glaring when they’re faced with a host of important decisions they need to make, often with little notice. It’s often difficult for the full nonprofit board to get together for a meeting on short notice. It’s easier for a smaller group of decision-makers to assemble to take immediate action or speak on behalf of the board. By design, executive committees were developed to help boards be more agile and prioritize the most important issues for boards to address.
Unless the bylaws outline how often executive committees are required to meet, committee members can set up their own schedules for meetings. Depending on the board’s needs, executive committees may meet every month, every other month, or quarterly, or as needed.
What Is the Role of the Nonprofit Executive Committee?
In addition to best practices, your bylaws should outline your executive committee’s specific duties and responsibilities. Executive committees play a strong advisory role and they’re responsible for ensuring strong executive director leadership.
The following list tells you everything you need to know about the role of the nonprofit executive committee:
- Acts and behalf of the full board. The bylaws generally give the executive committee the power and authority to act and make decisions on behalf of the full board. This power extends to speaking with donors, the media, and the general public.
- Hires the executive director and sets the compensation package. The executive committee is responsible for recruiting, nominating, and hiring the executive director. Committee members set executive compensation levels and work with the executive director to establish goals. The committee reports to the board on their activities in connection with executive appointments.
- Serves in an advisory capacity to the board and the executive director. The executive committee works closely with the executive director and advises him or her on important matters. In addition, nonprofit executive committees also serve as a liaison between the executive director and the rest of the board.
- Acts as a steering committee for the board. Executive committees provide direction for the board, steering them toward the most important issues, and helping to prioritize board meeting agendas.
- Conduct research to assist in strategic planning. Executive committee members are generally responsible for conducting research as necessary on various issues, including governance issues. The committee helps to evaluate the nonprofit’s progress toward strategic goals and initiatives.
- Providing oversight for the entire organization. Executive committees are responsible for overseeing board policies and ensuring good governance practices.
- Establishing and sunsetting committees and task forces. Executive committee members should take responsibility for ensuring that all board members serve on at least one committee. Also, they take responsibility for ensuring that task forces and committees are necessary and productive.
- Addressing high-level workplace issues that are serious in nature. If serious issues escalate beyond the normal chain of command, the executive committee hears the matter first and makes the decision about the next best steps.
- Takes the lead on board member education and development. To ensure effective leadership in governance practices, the executive board generally takes the lead on ensuring that board members learn about their responsibilities and the committee takes responsibility for following through with annual board self-evaluations.
Executive committees should assign someone to take minutes of their meetings for the board’s review.
Delegation is a core component of good nonprofit governance. Executive committees fill the gaps in many areas that are difficult for the full board to address. Another important component of nonprofit governance is documenting the board’s actions and decisions. It’s helpful to have the right tools to document activities responsibly. A BoardEffect board management portal makes the job of documenting board meeting minutes and executive committee meeting minutes easier, and there’s also less chance of error. BoardEffect is the most effective tool for overseeing nonprofits and guiding them in the board’s work of fulfilling the nonprofit’s mission.