2 of the Most Important Reasons to Organize your Board into Effective Sub Committees

October 10, 2017

Let me first begin this post by wholeheartedly agreeing that there are several excellent reasons to utilize an effective system of inter-connected sub committees to facilitate the work of a non-profit board of directors or advisors.  These reasons may include, assuring that your Board makes steady progress towards meeting the agreed upon goals that have been set by the organization in some level of formal planning process (strategic, operational or just plain “let’s get this thing started”), maximize time spent in formal board meetings on effective decision making, sharing some of the load with the Executive Director or other key staff, or even just providing opportunities for board members to get to know each other through actively working together.  I have personally experienced the impacts of working on or with board sub-committees over the life of my career in and with nonprofit organizations, either as a member or a facilitator/trainer/educator.  The collective knowledge I have gained over the years have led me to the identification of 2 of the Most Important Reasons to Organize a Board into Effective Sub-Committees, which I will briefly address in the remainder of this entry.  These two reasons share first place in my book for importance whether your board and its’ membership are ‘seasoned’ or brand new.

Reason A:  Effective board subcommittees provides an opportunity for the board to have effective interactions with other members of the staff in the organization.

I had an amazing opportunity to work with some of the middle managers and line staff in a community-based organization on whose board I serve on in the planning of an annual event and in promoting the issues and values of the organization through a local radio show.  Working on sub committees that were comprised of both staff and board members made these amazing opportunities possible and gave me firsthand knowledge of the amazing staff who work tirelessly to meet the needs of individuals and families in this historical low -income community. The combination of skills and passion exhibited by the staff enhanced my own commitment to the organization and effective service on the board AND led me to think more creatively about how I could be an asset to the staff.  So often the emphasis is on the customers and impacting their outcomes as it relates to mastering life skills and sustaining themselves and their families that as board members, we can sometimes forget about the people who do the work daily.  Oftentimes, these amazing people do not attend board meetings (and may not want to) however board members make more effective decisions when they understand the work and have a RELATIONSHIP with the people doing the work.

Reason B:  Effective board subcommittees provides an opportunity for others who are not affiliated with the organization to collaborate with the board and staff on purposeful and time limited projects that have clear outcomes.

Active involvement in these short- term engagements may ultimately build a sense of renewed interest in the organization and its mission and thus build new board member prospects. Nonprofit boards are always looking to identify individuals who can serve on the board as opportunities arise through the expiration of terms or changes in the needs of individual members themselves. 

The myriad of ways that individuals come to serve on subcommittees can be directly tied to the level of commitment that board members have towards the work of the organization.  They may actively recruit friends or colleagues to serve on the subcommittees which is much easier to do when they fully understand the work of the organization and have a rapport with the people who actually "do the work."  Their willingness to serve WITH the individuals or organizations they are able to engage in the project is rooted in their level of commitment to the mission of the organization.  Work on effective projects that achieve the desired outcomes strengthens their commitment to the organization and the mission and propels them to generate contagious energy and deeper passion to continue their service. 

For the invited participant, service on a subcommittee is the number 1 way to introduce the organization and the team of committed staff and board members to the individual.  What may have started out as service as a favor or because of the person who asks, will undoubtedly turn towards commitment to the organization and the population served.  Short term projects with clear outcomes and roles for all participants is an invaluable way to generate energy and enthusiasm that comes from working together and meeting goals.   From this point, the possibilities are endless.

Dr. Adriennie Y. Hatten

A.Y. Hatten & Associates

Founder and Principal Investigator

Ascend Advisors, LLC Associate