The Basics of Board Committee Structure

The Basics of Board Committee Structure

Committee StructureBy: Eileen Morgan Johnson, CAE

From standing and ad hoc committees to task forces and advisory councils, a board accomplishes its work through a variety of smaller groups. Associations need to regularly evaluate their existing committee structure and be ready to adjust it based on the organization’s changing governance needs.

Just as every board is unique, every board’s committee structure is unique too. Most boards continue the same committee structure from year to year with little thought given as to what the committees do or whether they are still relevant. As a result, the committees have vague objectives, committee meetings are often endless discussions with no results achieved, and the members of the committees become bored or frustrated.

At the other end of the spectrum is the zero-based committee structure where the board reviews its work plan each year and then establishes only those committees that it will need. Similar to a zero-based budget, this frees the board from doing things the same way each year. Of course, this only works if the association truly looks at what it needs in terms of board work for the year and only forms those committees that are necessary.

If the committee structure has not been revisited in a few years, the board should consider looking at the current committee structure and what the committees actually do. If there are overlapping responsibilities or no work being done, then it is time to realign the committee structure. Committees with no work can be abolished, and committees with overlapping work can be merged. Committees should not take on a life of their own, nor should they overshadow the board itself.

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