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Ideas to Generate Participation in Committees

Vast majority of content in this topic applies to for-profits and nonprofits. This book also covers this topic.
Developing, Operating and Restoring Your Nonprofit Board - Book Cover

© Copyright Carter McNamara, MBA, PhD

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To Increase Attendance and/or Participation in Committees

  • Ensure committee chairs understand and can convey the role of the committee to members, and that the chair and members have up-to-date job descriptions.
  • Ensure adequate orientation that describes the organization and its unique services, and how the committee contributes to this mission.
  • Remember that the organization and its committees deserve strong attendance and participation. Don't fall prey to the perspective that "we're lucky just get anyone." Set a standard for the best.
  • Have ground rules that support participation and attendance. Revisit the ground rules every other meeting and post them on the bottom of agendas.
  • Let go of "dead wood." It often help to decrease the number of committee members rather than increase them.
  • Consider using subcommittees to increase individual responsibilities and focus on goals.
  • Conduct yearly committee evaluations that includes a clear evaluation process and where each committee member evaluates the other members, and each member receives a written report about their strengths and how they can improve their contributions.
  • Attempt to provide individual assignments to the committee members.
  • Have at least one staff member participate in each committee to help with administrative support and providing information.
  • Monitor quorum requirements for the entire board (as set forth usually in ByLaws), or the minimum number of board members who must be present for the board to officially enact business. This quorum, when not met, will serve as a clear indicator, or signal, that the board is in trouble.
  • Develop a committee attendance policy that specifies the number of times a member can be absent in consecutive meetings and in total meetings per time period.
  • Generate minutes for each committee meeting to get closure on items and help members comprehend the progress made by the committee.
  • In committee meeting reports, include noting who is present and who is absent.
  • Consider having low-attendance members involved in some other form of service to the organization, e.g., a "friends of the organization," or something like that, who attends to special events rather than ongoing activities.
  • Have a "summit meeting" with committee members to discuss the low attendance problem, and use a round-table approach so each person must speak up with their opinions.
  • Rotate in new members every year.

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