Many Government Boards set up committees or sub-committees to help
streamline their decision-making process.
Committees concentrate on and develop expertise in specific areas,
ensuring that the full Board can concentrate more on the "big picture".
Usually their role will involve examining and debating an issue and then
preparing a recommendation for the full Board. They may also be set up
to take on a major project or task – locating new premises or finding a
new CEO, for example.
In some organisations, committees consist only of Board members. Others
involve outside people with particular industry or technical knowledge.
There are some benefits and some drawbacks of having a committee system
in place and some of these are examined towards the end of this help
Not all Boards have committees and not all Boards have the same
committees. However, there are some common ones.
The Executive Committee
Where there is a need for rapid or flexible decision-making, or where
the Board's meetings are infrequent, there can be a need for an
Executive Committee to fill the gaps. The committee might, for example,
be authorised to handle urgent decisions over a holiday period.
Executive Committees are usually made up of the office bearers, the CEO
and perhaps one or two members elected by the Board.
Under most Boards' rules, it is necessary to formally delegate powers
to the Executive Committee between meetings. Decisions are then reported
to and endorsed by the full Board at the next ordinary meeting.
The Governance or Board Development Committee
Probably the most influential of all committees, the Governance
Committee ensures efficient Board processes. Tasks may include:
- Preparing priorities for Board composition
- Developing a prospect list to identify potential Board members
- Meeting with prospective Board members and recommending
- Conducting orientation sessions for new Board members
- Organising training sessions for the Board
- Suggesting new, non-Board individuals for committee membership
- Organising training and development activities for committees
- Establishing appropriate Board evaluation processes
- Considering issues of access and equity in the Board's composition
The Budget and Finance Committee
This committee oversees the preparation and review of the budget and
keeps track of all financial transactions for accountability purposes.
More particularly, tasks can include:
- Establishing appropriate processes for budget preparations
- Identifying and advising staff on financial priorities
- Recommending financial guidelines and processes to the Board
- Reporting any financial irregularities or concerns to the Board
- Working with staff to design financial reports that are accurate
- Identifying any opportunities for income generation
- Overseeing the management of short and long-term investments
- Recommending selection of an auditor to the Board, working with
the auditor and responding to the auditor's recommendations
The Remuneration/People Development Committee
Where Boards are overseeing organisations with paid staff, they will
usually be responsible for selecting the CEO, fixing his or her salary
and monitoring his or her performance. A committee may be put in place
to manage this process.
Boards usually do not have responsibility for staffing matters other
than those relating directly to the CEO. However, some Boards may also
use a committee to guide the development, review and authorisation of
personnel policies and procedures. This can include establishing a
salary structure, and annually reviewing staff salaries and benefits
Product/Program Development Committee
This committee is the link between the Board and the staff on programs
or activities. The most common responsibilities of a Product or Program
Development Committee are:
- Overseeing new program development and monitoring and assessing
- Initiating and guiding program evaluations
- Facilitating discussions about program priorities for the
Marketing and Public Relations Committee
This committee works on strategies to promote to the broader community
the role of the Board or the facilities, industry or organisation the
Board is overseeing. This will usually include working with staff to
develop a marketing plan for the group that:
- Identifies potential new markets for the group's services or
- Promotes the group's services to the community
- Builds a good relationship with the media
Ensuring ethical behaviour among Board members is vital to the
functioning of a Board. With this in mind, some Boards put in place an
Ethics Committee, which may establish and apply guidelines for ensuring
ethical behaviour and work to resolve ethical conflicts.
This committee is usually responsible for overseeing any fundraising
efforts and, in particular, any fundraising carried out by the Board.
This function may be less common in Government Boards than in other
not-for-profit Boards but where such committees do exist, tasks may
- Working with staff to establish a fundraising plan that
incorporates a suite of fundraising activities
- Taking the lead in certain types of fundraising efforts, such as
chairing a dinner/dance committee or hosting fundraising parties
- Involving all Board members in fundraising, such as having them
make telephone calls to ask for support, and monitoring fundraising
activities to ensure they are cost efficient
- Establishing and monitoring ethical guidelines for all
fundraising to be sure that ethical procedures are followed
- Maintaining links with funders, donors, granting agencies and
sponsors, and ensuring that they are acknowledged appropriately
- Identifying potential sources for funds and other resources
Ad Hoc Committees
Ad hoc committees oversee special tasks that come along from time to
time. Examples can include:
- Major Events Committee –
plans and coordinates major events, such as fundraisers, conferences or
- Research Committee –
conducts specific research and makes recommendations to the Board on
particular issues or trends, including possible joint projects, changes
in legislation, potential relocation or funding cuts.
- CEO Transition or Search
Committee – works on finding a new CEO, including developing
guidelines and a search process and developing a shortlist of candidates.
- Site Relocation Committee
– assists in the relocation of headquarters from existing premises to
- Capital Campaign Committee
– plans, coordinates and executes a campaign to raise a significant
amount of money above and beyond the usual year's activities, often for
building or expansion projects.
Committee Ups and Downs
There are benefits and drawbacks to forming and serving on committees
On the up-side, committees can make better use of Board members' time
by allowing particular tasks to be delegated away from the full Board
and freeing it to concentrate on the "big picture". They can also reduce
the length of full Board meetings because issues have often been
discussed and resolved to everyone's satisfaction beforehand. Working on
a committee can also allow a Board member to make better use of his or
her expertise by allowing them to concentrate on an area where they
have a particular interest or skill. Committees can also help to broaden
knowledge, particularly if members are rotated around the different
committees during their term.
On the other side of the coin, having too many or inefficient
committees can spread Board members' time too thinly, leading to waning
enthusiasm and a loss of effectiveness. And the more meetings that are
held, the more the administrative support that is required.
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